Once again, I am going overseas for Pesach to see my children, leaving the husband behind. Because I love him, I prepare the house for Passover so he doesn’t have to play the Wandering Jew.
Tired from cleaning before starting, I asked myself, “Why am doing this again? Who decided that an observant Jewish woman has to be the Korban Pesach—Passover sacrifice???
I get it. We were slaves. We were miraculously freed. We endured 40 years in the desert and received the Torah. Then we got to Israel. I knew the story even before Charlton Heston and Edward G. Robinson worked for MGM. Why am I on my knees again this year scrubbing under the radiator?!?!’”
Taking a break from “where-are-the-breadcrumbs-hiding” duty, I pour myself a cup of tea and look upon the Jerusalem mountains that pepper the landscape. My hissy-fit slowly abates and, to my amazement, I become spiritually transported, surrounded by other freed slaves as shoulder-to-shoulder we plod toward emancipation.
What horrors haven’t we endured as a nation? A meditative unity rises from my belly as I feel myself enveloped in a loving, calm embrace. Knowing that my pre-Passover ministrations are performed by holy Jews the world over and that we are reenacting the work of our ancestors humbles me.
A cup of tea, the smell of dish soap and clean windows remind me that I am deeply connected to an eternal people. Connected, in fact, all the way back to Sinai.
“I’ll have to bring gifts for everyone,’”I sigh, determined to travel overseas this year only with a carry on. But what affordable (and small!) items can I bring relatives who have everything and don’t need another mezuzah case or packet of halvah from the shuk? I’m the poor relation! The settler, the Zionist, the idealist who smugly left the fleshpots of the West to reenact the lives of our forefathers as per my interpretation of the Torah’s exhortation.
Thinking that an attitude adjustment might be in order, I envision the Four Sons that the Haggadah speaks of. The Wise Son who is the pride of his parents, the kid who ‘drank the Kool-Aid’ and buys the whole package; he has no questions. The simple son is told the story in language that is accessible, with imagery and song. The son who does not know how to ask is engaged on whatever level suits his intellect and curiosity. But what role does the Wicked Son play at the Seder? He is angry. He is mocking. He is contrary. He disrupts. Do you know what else he is?
He is there.
And “there” is where hope lies. If one is not present, the chance of his remaining part of the twisted chain that still connects us to Sinai is remote. There is room on the harlequin tapestry of Jewish existence for naysayers and observers. For different kinds of observers. For Jews of color and Jews who live alternative lifestyles. For Jews who struggle with aspects of identity and inclusion and Jews who strive to honor each mitzvah outlined in the Torah.
If we do not move over and make room at our tables – Seder and Shabbat and birthday and backyard-picnic tables – for the Jew who is not even ‘there,’ we have missed the point of this mandated commemoration and have no reason to repeat the cleaning and other preparatory rituals.
But if we cherish our existence and tremble with the miraculous irrationality of our existence despite millennia of oppression, we must make room at the table for our brothers and sisters. Not only for their sake.
NEW YORK NATIVE ANDREA SIMANTOV has lived in Jerusalem since 1995. She writes for several publications, appears regularly on Israel National Radio and owns an image consulting firm for women.