Friday, March 26, 2010

Slavery to Freedom

There has been much discussion about the high cost of being involved in Jewish life .... day school, congregation dues, JCC dues, summer camp, youth group conventions, fundraisers, b'nei mitzvah celebrations, Federation campaign, Israel trips ... my check book hurts just thinking about it. But this has been talked about at great length by many of my colleagues. What I want to talk about is Pesach.

I hate Pesach. I think it is a true experiential learning opportunity (and not just the Seder) ... but I face the cleaning, the changing of dishes, the cooking, the family tension around the Seder table, the week feeling cabin feverish (because I don't eat out at all and can't get that out-of-the-house social interaction with many friends), and lastly the shopping, as my own personal slavery. Let's be honest, observing Pesach in the most strict of ways is a total pain in the ass. And somehow, that last night at sundown - walking out of the house and heading to an Italian restaurant (come on - admit it, you probably eat pizza or pasta to break the Pesach restrictions) - that moment is my own personal freedom.

This year, I have even a stronger dislike for the holiday. Firstly, it is the first Pesach since my father passed away and while my family doesn't have many strong Pesach traditions, there will be the sense of the "empty chair" void left by his absence. Second, it is always difficult to go away for Sederarim and still have to come back to my house and have it kashered for just a few days. [Note: The best Pesach I ever spent was at a Kosher-for-Passover resort in Puerto Rico! But it's very expensive as a guest and I spent it as a staff person.] Third, this year I am dealing with incredible transition in my life both professionally and personally. My exhaustion managing the events in my life has left me completely depleted for REAL kashering and so I have personally wrestled with how much do I allow myself to not do and how what standard of Pesach cannot I just not give up.

And lastly ... there's the shopping. This year I faced the shopping through the eyes of those who have to watch their spending very carefully. I am blessed that in the years past, I have not had to worry about each item I placed in my cart and the total at the end of the day. But this year, it's different. This year, I am one of those people for whom the budget is enslaving and therefore the cost to be Jewish a true burden. Should the capitalism of the industry actually cause people to make painful choices between observance and not? Are the Kosher for Passover manufacturers and the grocery stores our modern-day Pharoah?

I say: Let My People Go. I am not sure if I am going to articulate this clearly, but I think as Klal Yisrael - as a people, we need to wonder this desert together. We need to bond together and have some leadership facilitate our collective negotiating and price monitoring. We also need to advocate for individual-sized portions/containers of many of the items. Being single, I am stuck paying for many family-sized items. I am not familiar at all with the process of how the prices get set, but what I do know is that my Judaism shouldn't be for sale at I price I cannot afford.

I want to be able to truly celebrate Pesach, in the spirit it was intended and I don't want to resent the process. I want to see the Promised Land ...

Chag Kasher v'Sameach Pesach.

1 comment:

Gary said...
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