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Haddy the Hebrew: The stress of Passover

The Jewish holidays can carry mixed emotions for their observers. On the one hand, they are celebrations of Jewish triumph, but they can also be recognition of our transgressions or difficult times in Jewish history. Regardless, they are centered around integral pieces of our past as Jews, further connecting us to our ancestors. But, many Jewish holidays come with increased restrictions, making even a celebratory holy day a time of great stress. Such is the dilemma with Pesach, commonly known in English as “Passover.”

While Passover won’t start until the evening of April 5, preparations for the holiday are well underway and are about to come to a close. This is an eight-day holiday with special rules, which is why the preparation is so time-consuming. In order to “keep” Passover, one must clean their entire house to make sure that there are no remnants of chametz. Chametz is any food with a leavening agent, but more broadly is used to describe anything that is not designated as kosher for Passover. For example, a lollipop may not contain a leavening agent, but because it is not specifically kosher for Passover it is considered chametz. This is usually around the time when Jewish people do the once-a-year things that are important for keeping a house clean, like shampooing carpets or deep-cleaning ovens. 

In addition, one must buy kosher for Passover food. What is permissible to eat on Passover largely depends on one’s customs. For example, Mizrahi Jews– that is, Jews whose ancestors moved to other parts of the Middle East after the destruction of the Temple– eat rice and corn on Passover. But many Ashkenazi Jews– Jews whose ancestors moved to Eastern and parts of Central Europe after the destruction of the Temple– abstain from those foods. No matter your custom, though, chametz or any foods that could have come into contact with chametz must be replaced. The holiday is one which consists of a lot of cleaning and shopping, which in turn requires a lot of organization and planning. 

Many people I know become stressed around this holiday. It can take a lot of time, effort and money to make sure that your house is kosher for Passover. This is increased if you are hosting a Seder, or the first two nights of Passover that have a special order to them. During a Seder, we are commanded to wash our hands multiple times, eat foods in a certain order and tell the story of Passover. These are usually very large affairs that can consist of out-of-town guests who may need to stay overnight, making the hosting extend past the Seder. 

With all that being said, it is clear how so many Jewish people can get wrapped up in the logistics. Although the holiday is meant to celebrate our freedom from slavery in Egypt, it does require a lot of work. 

And here is my take: the work of Passover doesn’t detract from the holiday, but adds to it. When I am being driven crazy from all the cleaning and preparation, I remind myself that this is a privilege. My ancestors were slaves in Egypt, so they didn’t have the opportunity to focus on celebrating their Judaism. Instead, they were punished for it. It is a miracle that I get to sit around a table filled with those closest to me while we recount their story, forever thankful to G-D that we were freed from bondage. 

Now, a few centuries later, we are laboring over Passover in order to honor our ancestors. Yes, Passover can be a time of great stress, but it is a stress that I welcome. 

Hadass Galili is a senior studying political science pre-law at Ohio University. Please note that the views and opinions of the columnist do not reflect those of The Post. Do you agree? Tell Hadass by tweeting her at @HadassGalili.

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