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Friday, October 18, 2019

Dear Shuli,

Pesach is almost here and I’m so stressed out. There’s so much to do and this is my first time making Pesach. I wish I could go away but it’s just not going to work this year. What do I do? Why can’t I just go away???

Signed, A Pesach Newbie

Dear Newbie,

I just heard a shiur the other day by a local Rebbetzin who spoke about this Pesach chag. Generally, it’s thought of as the most difficult chag to keep. There’s always so much preparation, cleaning, cooking, buying of food and clothes, and more. And yet, if you think about Jews who are not as affiliated, Pesach is one of those few holidays that they observe at all. I don’t know if Jews are by definition masochists and enjoy the struggle, or if it’s the toil that binds us to the mitzvos involved. I do know that we tend to hold tighter, to that which is more precious to us. And, that which is precious to us is usually what we worked harder for. It’s a lot harder to spend $100 that you just worked hard for than $100 that someone just gifted to you.

So, let’s try and leave the pain of Mitzrayim and think of ways to beautify Pesach while bringing that love of Pesach to your family. First of all, you need to think about cleaning for Pesach, one of the most daunting parts of the chag. If you can, start early. If you can’t, start now. Many people get confused - cleaning for Pesach is NOT Spring cleaning. You are looking for chometz, and you do not need to wash your ceilings, or walls for that matter. A good guide to cleaning for Pesach can be found at Aish.com: http://www.aish.com/h/pes/l/48970611.html.

Next, the cooking. As anyone who has made Pesach will tell you, start small. Don’t start shopping for pots and pans and china and crystal just yet. Every year, you can add a little bit. For the first year, if you are able or even if you just want to, use disposables, they have very nice disposable plates now - Amazing Savings is your friend. You can also get some very good pots and pans there at a fraction of the price at other stores. They are good quality and perfect for that one week of cooking, but again, start small. Get a big soup pot and a pan for matzo brei and don’t forget, you can also do a lot of cooking in disposable pans.

Keep your food plentiful, but simple. Some people get take out, but remember, people are so tired they’re not into eating a huge meal after a seder. So, keep the seder meals light and make the daytime meals a little heavier. It’s healthier that way anyway.

But most importantly, think of how you want to beautify Pesach. Are you inviting guests? Who? Family? Friends? Or someone who might need a seder? Also, how are you getting your kids involved? No matter their age, from toddlers on, they should be involved in cleaning for Pesach, Cooking for Pesach, biur chometz and more. How are you going to beautify your seder? Are you decorating your table? Are your kids? Are you dressing up (as we do) with a Moshe Rabbeinu and Paroah and act out parts of the Pesach story? Do you throw the 10 plagues around the table during their recitation? What about cranberry juice for the dam? These are all ways for both you and your family to enjoy the the mitzvos of Pesach. Use google for more ideas. There is tons out there!

And then, don’t forget about Chol Hamoed! This year, we have several days of chol hamoed. If you can, devise fun and different ways to spend each day. It doesn’t have to be expensive, it just has to be exciting. You can take the train into the city and just walk around. You can go to the zoo or museums, you can even go to Van Saun Park and have a picnic. Have your kids and love ones give input. Invite friends - the more the merrier.

But above all, enjoy Pesach, take it one step at a time and when all is said and done, these are the memories that last a lifetime - the four questions, the crunch of the matzo, the sweetness of the wine, the bitterness of the maror; the charoset that only you know how to make right. The singing of Chad Gadya, the questions asked, the stories told and the experiences shared. You are part of that long line descended from our foremothers and forefathers who, all the way back to Mitzrayim were creating and recreating the seder. So that we should never forget how Hashem took us out of slavery and brought us to freedom. Chag Sameach!

Signed, Shuli

Dear Shuli,

Every year, I’m invited to go away with my parents to a hotel for Pesach and I hate packing! It’s so hard packing clothes and toys and books for all of the kids and us and then sleeping away from home. I wish things were just easier. Then when we get to the hotel, it’s so difficult keeping the kids up for the sedarim, dealing with the tumult and then starting all over the next day. Can you help me?

Signed, The Suitcase Situation

Dear Suitcase,

You have options. You can think of Pesach at a hotel as a vacation, albeit a crazy and hectic one, or you can make Pesach yourself. See above.

Signed, Shuli

Come sit on my couch. Ask me anything, no matter how simple or controversial. I’m around for everyone from the babies to the bubbies. Email me at [email protected] and let’s talk it out.