Election shmutz in both Israel and America makes me want to eat healthily, exercise, stop cursing and give others the benefit of the doubt. I yearn for some controls at a time in our shared history as I find myself more and more concerned that, in fact, I’ve become irrelevant in the movie of my life.
There seems to be another movement afoot that says Marie Kondo and her minions of declutterers are shysters, phonies and moral storm-troopers. I disagree. Like any popular new-think, detractors will emerge and, in a world where dissent used to be tolerated, this is fine. I’ve still not emptied my closet onto the bed nor asked a corkscrew whether or not it sparks joy. But taking a page out of the Konmari Rule Book, I’ve purged my husband’s closet of tricot disco pants and minimized his sock collection by 600%.
Recently we installed a new kitchen. Or, should I say, a kitchen. In the eight years we’ve lived in our apartment, the cabinetry was the builder’s original set. Constructed in 1978, Golda Meir would have pooh-poohed it in her day. I wept frequently, hating it so that, consequently, I hated my home. The open-floor design meant seeing it from every corner of living space. Painting walls or adding plants and artwork were merely futile exercises, designed to distract. I am a 64-year-old grandma, living as though I was sharing a college flat. My unhappiness was palpable.
And so, just in time for Passover, we added a kitchen and saved my marriage. The near frantic pace of clearing-out cabinets and moving them to other spaces in a 900 square foot apartment forced me to immediately address which items add or subtract from our general well-being. The experience was life-altering. With so much to do and so many goals to attain, possessions demand upkeep, storage, consideration. I had recently cleared out the flat of my elderly mother and the words of a dear friend kept ping-pinging in my ear: “Our treasures become our children’s burdens.” During that period with Mom I pledged not to leave the challenge of heavy-disencumbering to my offspring. Now was a chance to begin working toward that promise.
Because Seder night was looming closer as well, shedding both home and heart of chametz (leavened food products) made sense. Thinking of the Exodus from Egypt, I pondered the question, “What did our fore-mothers deem critical baggage for escaping eternal bondage and nation building?” Considering both desert terrain and thousands of chariots in hot pursuit, I envisioned not more than a carry-on tote per person containing a robe or two, sturdy hiking sandals, toothbrush and floss, three head scarves and enough fine jewelry to pound into a golden calf and/or eventual mirrors for the Tabernacle.
It also occurred to me that my enormous Tupperware collection was embarrassing.
Soft, delicious bread (an Israel specialty) contains almost the same ingredients as boring, hard to digest matzah. Bread rises and, infused with hot air, is delectable. On the other hand, matzah is hastily mixed and baked, remaining flat and meek. The most exemplary quality of matzah lies in its lack of pretentiousness. I’m reminded of a bumper sticker that read, “He who dies with the most toys wins.” How egotistical, bloated, futile and chametzdik. This is a legacy?
As I combined both Spring cleaning and Passover preparation, the paradigm shift of connecting a historically humble past to a (hopefully) humble and meaningful future was nearly non-discernible. But it was there, nestled between 19 photo albums and 371 compact discs. Oy.
Wishing one and all—Jew, gentile, believer and non—a chag kasher v’same’ach.
New York native Andrea Simantov 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.