Pessach has been my favorite holiday from early childhood in Nazi Germany until today. My memory takes me back to my beloved late father’s red Haggadah with the pictures that had so much meaning and so many reminiscences. It told of the four brothers from the Rosche, the evil one, to the simple one, and those in between. It pictured the Auszug Aus Egypten, (the departure out of Egypt) and the splitting of the sea, and much more.
Life has changed but my love of Passover has not.
The scrubbing of the kitchen, the cleaning of closets is no pleasure, the schlepping of dishes out of their Pessach boxes along with the pots and pans is not an enjoyable task, but the results are refreshing We can inhale the freshness of Spring as we open the windows as we labor to make another kosher yom tov. The feeling is one of renewal, a type of rebirth and recollections. We are a different person as we sit at our Seder table with our family, with our loved ones and our friends. We reminisce about the Seders of our youth, about the years that have passed, our struggles, those of our parents, our successes, our disappointments. We think about our parents, my dad sitting at the head of the table reading with his deep voice from the Haggadah, about the ten plagues and about the wicked brutes who enslaved our forebears. We think about our survival and how we survived.
The humdrum of every day life disappears. Every year Pessach brings a new beginning of similarities and differences, and memories of years gone by. It brings on expectations, hope that the evildoers will perish. We listen to the four kashes (questions that the youngest one at the table recites). It reminds us that everyone at the table has a special worth, a special duty to perform and a special place at the table, that he/she is important from youth to old age.
Searching for answers, pondering about the value and the meaning of life is important It reminds us of the phrase: “In unserem Talmud kann man vieles lesen, und alles ist schon einmal da gewesen.” In our Talmud we can read that everything has occurred previously and nothing is absolutely new.
The aroma of the delicious soup with its delicious matzoh balls with the special dishes, the horseradish, the bitter herbs, the moror and the charoses, the sweetness of the apples mixed with nuts and wine, remind us of the bitter times that we the Jewish people had and how sweetness also has a place in our existence and our experiences. We recall the lies told about us, the scapegoating, the “bilbulim” that were made about us, the “chosen people.” It takes us back to memories of the holocaust, how six million of our people were brutally thrown into gas ovens after being beaten and starved to death. Those who were spared were the “chosen people,” the fortunate ones.
Pessach allows us to have a time of remembrance, of gratitude. It takes us from the mundane to the meaning of everyday life, to the past and the present, all at the same time. It brings us the joy of being together with our family, our beliefs and our heritage.