I hate Pesach but this year's plague of matzos will be different for me

November 24, 2016 23:25

In a foolishly absentminded moment, I took a bite of my daughter's chocolate muffin. Had I not been lured by her leftovers, I would not have had an anaphylactic reaction in the midst of her birthday party. This particular party was different from all other parties because it fell, as any baby born in April often does, right in the middle of Pesach; and so as the family tea ensued and my antihistamine kicked in, I had what is sometimes described as a moment of clarity. It clarified that I hate Pesach.

If my daughter's birthday had not coincided with Pesach, then I would not have purchased those ''kosher for Pesach'' muffins and would not have made the crucial error of neglecting to translate 'nuts' from the Hebrew ingredients printed on the packaging, saving myself from the discomfort of a swollen tongue and the glazed drowsy look throughout her special day.

Pesach is like an obstacle course of food avoidance which from experience I know I'm guaranteed one nut-related incident each year. But, deathly allergy aside, this is not the sole reason I dislike Pesach but merely a crystallisation of the surging dread I feel about it. And I know I'm not alone. We are all susceptible to some Pesach anxiety, panic buying every imaginable foodstuff as if an Armageddon were upon us, frantic cleaning and tableware changing, all for what?

Eight days where we moan about how bored we are with potatoes, how there are only so many ways you can boil, scramble, poach and fry an egg; how matzo is destroying our already sensitive digestive systems.

We long for bread, for the wheat-risen, toast it, butter it, spread it with Marmite deliciously desired and mourned for bread. Eight days where I kid myself that I am on the Pesach detox diet, when really, I'm just miserably hungry.

For eight days we moan about how bored we are with potatoes

How many times can I explain to my children, whose diet ordinarily only consists of sandwiches, bagels, fish fingers and digestive biscuits, that every food that they know and love they are now not allowed.

Even when I elucidate the story of Pesach and how really it's a celebration of freedom, where we are now free to eat what we like, my six-year-old son looks up at me and states "but I like fish fingers". I know that I am fighting a losing battle.

Shouldn't we be taking those eight days to learn and teach from a more relatable recent past rather than retell the story of Moses and the ten plagues? Where, for instance, is the festival for the Holocaust?

Do we get so caught up in facilitating and observing Pesach correctly that the meaning of it passes over us?

Does it make you any less of a Jew if somewhere between the first seder night and the one hundredth plate of matzo brei to admit that the idea of freedom somehow gets lost in translation. Is the freedom to choose only eating unleavened bread at the same time a contradiction because in electing to participate we are entrapping ourselves to a week of restriction? Where every matzo we break should remind us of our freedom, but if we are truly honest with ourselves, do we ever really contemplate this whilst sweeping up the innumerable amount of crumbs? And then if a morsel of chamatz should even accidently touch your lips and Pesach is broken, there is the inescapable guilt.

Do Christians experience the same feeling of guilt if they don't participate in the consumption of chocolate eggs during Easter? How many Christians pay attention to the meaning behind what the Easter egg represents, do they consider the rebirth of Christ and that the egg itself symbolises Jesus's empty tomb every time they ingest a Cadbury's cream egg?

This year, however, is different. The dread of Pesach seems indulgent when thinking of recent murderous acts. When regular Jews stocking up on their food for Shabbat are targeted just for being Jews, and when ordinary Jews in a shul celebrating a bar mitzvah are targeted, all I want is to be preoccupied with cleaning out the chametz .

This year, I feel determined to find the most exotic way to eat an egg and cook a potato, I will happily vacuum as many matzo remnants that litter my floor as eight days will allow. Why? Because I am Jewish and whether I hate it or love it, keep it or break it, risk further near-death experiences from my nut allergy, I will of course be celebrating Pesach.

It makes no difference how we choose to observe Pesach. What makes a difference is that this year, as we all hide the afikoman, we will all be collectively affirming our right to be Jewish.

It is undeniably important, now more than ever, to continue uniting in our celebration of freedom and choice. Whichever way you say it, matzah or motzah, let's not call the whole thing off.

November 24, 2016 23:25

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