By Shmuel Katz
I love this time of year. The weather is nice. The days are getting longer (so I get to come home during the daylight hours). We are in the home stretch of the school year both at home and at work. And Pesach is coming.
Yeah, that’s right. I love Pesach. I love preparing for Pesach (especially in Israel because we get to enjoy our one Seder and really have a lot of family time to explore and learn). I love the sense of renewal I feel each year as we clean house and switch from the dreary days of winter in preparation for the bright shiny days of summer.
I love the matzah bakery. One of the local shuls has a special pizza oven that they keep in storage throughout the year and set up just for matzah baking. They have a turnkey setup, under the hashgachah of their rav, for groups to come and bake matzot, and we make our own (instead of buying) shemurah matzot.
Although I inevitably singe half my eyebrow off while working the oven, there is simply no way to describe the satisfaction I have in baking matzot for my family. I also volunteer in helping manage the bakery, so I get to come back on erev Pesach for a special erev Pesach run of matzot that I use (exclusively) at the Seder.
Like tying my own tzitzit, making the sukkah, harvesting my own aravot, etc., taking an active role in preparing for a mitzvah seems to make it more personally meaningful to me and my family.
I love the green fields. We have a wheat field in the valley outside our front door and a vineyard just up the hill from that field. This year, with an extra Adar, the harvest, which has just begun, comes out before Pesach and I get to discuss the halachot of Yashan and Chadash with my kids. I love that too.
The flowers are in bloom. On the various e-mail lists, there will be several posts a day telling people where they can go to see the splendor of wildflowers in bloom, minutes away from our homes. I love not only that we can go see this close by, but that the people I live with share (in some way) the way that I relish the beauty of Israel, both its natural wonders and its history.
On Tuesday, I got to go to my backyard and make Birkat HaIlanot on the flowering trees that I have growing there. We have a lemon tree, an orange tree, and a quince tree, and my neighbor’s pomegranate tree overhangs our yard so we have a good view of that one too (I get free rimonim for Rosh Hashanah). And I made the berachah on trees in Eretz Yisrael. I love that.
My whole country goes into Pesach mode over the next couple of weeks. All the major supermarket chains go KFP (kosher for Passover). I love that. Every person can find products for his personal minhagim: Ashkenaz and Sephard. From the most mehadrin to the most basic. Gluten-free. Dairy-free. Without kitniyot. With kitniyot. OK, that part I don’t necessarily love, because it makes it a bit difficult to shop.
But it demonstrates part of the beautiful mosaic that is our society. As I have said before, we might lack a certain achdut, but we definitely recognize and appreciate the differences between us and accept them as well. And I love that too.
Although our politicians are too often corrupt and we have our issues, there simply is nothing like spring in Israel. When I was a kid, even when I was an adult living in chutz la’aretz, I used to think “Chag HaAviv” was a simple reference to the season. But now that we live here, the name means much more.
It is not a time of year. It is a state of being. Israel in the spring and the chag means so much more simply because it takes place at this time.
Now that I think about it, I probably say that about all the chagim. L’shanah Hazeh B’Yerushalayim habnuyah. How amazing will that be! v
Shmuel Katz is the executive director of Yeshivat Migdal HaTorah (www.migdalhatorah.org), a new gap-year yeshiva. Shmuel, his wife Goldie, and their six children made aliyah in July of 2006. Before making aliyah, he was the executive director of the Yeshiva of South Shore in Hewlett. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.