Well, we made it! With tremendous help from our children, we managed to put together all the food on the original menu! We had a lovely yom tov: everything worked – shul, guests, food, weather…and, with a team of extra helpers, we managed the change back in about two hours.
The sun is still shining and my husband has taken most of the children out to Kew Gardens for the day, enabling me to work and our cleaner to reconstitute the house. Looking back over Pesach, I can honestly say that it was wonderful. Our sedarim were really good; we were able to spend time with family, friends, both shul and personal; we even sneaked out for a walk twice just by ourselves; we had delicious food and both preparation and clearup were not too traumatic. For Pesach outside Israel, without the Temple, it was about as good as it gets.
However, I know that for some people Pesach isn’t as much fun. Last night, as we sat down to eat icecream with the kids at 11:30pm with the clearup completed, I reminisced about one year, when we had four small children and only one extra pair of hands and I burst into tears at about 2:30am when my husband pointed out that we had far too much milky china for during the year and I should choose one set to dispose of. All I can say is, if you have small children – don’t worry! Eventually they will grow up and become big children who can cook, amuse small children and help put away your Pesach stuff! And, of course for people on their own, any yom tov is going to be harder, both emotionally and practically.
Dipping into Twitter on chol hamoed, I was disturbed by the tone of some of the tweets. “Normal” people with “normal” family setups complaining about too much yomtov, too much school holiday, poor food etc. Come on, people! If you are blessed with family, privileged to be given yomim tovim and have enough income to put food on the table – don’t complain about it!
If your kids are bored while you are cooking – let them help. Our eight year old daughter peeled a huge bowl of potatoes on erev yom tov and was very chuffed when we told everyone that we were eating her potatoes. (We didn’t just let her be the scullery maid, she also made icecream.) Our 11 year old son, who is a competent cook, made his Pesach speciality, poached pears, with some help from his 5 year old brother, who was extremely proud of his contribution. The middle girls have now given up on making desserts, so I have reclaimed them, allowing the girls to make “real” food – schnitzel, braised steak and side dishes – they are not prepared to touch raw chickens yet! I am very proud of our wonderful children and could not have managed the last few days without them.
Looking at a few blogs today, disappointingly few people seem to have mentioned Pesach at all – not even in a practical context, such as we used 100lbs of potatoes and served nearly 200 meals, let alone a spiritual one. My husband spoke in shul on the last days about the bracha of v’hasienu which we say on yom tov. He quoted Rav Hirsch’s idea that although the direct translation is something like “load us up with the blessings of your festivals”, the concept is that we should take the bracha of yom tov with us into our daily lives. Rav Hirsch says, “By our reunion with God, which takes place on yom tov, our strength for true and genuine living is renewed and intensified.” My husband said, if we don’t achieve some kind of spiritual growth through yomtov, then all the preparations and festivities, however, wonderful they were, are pretty meaningless.