My friend and I have a running joke on Passover about how nice it is to sit in an empty synagogue. To a certain extent there is some truth to the sentiment. Our usually boisterous shul full of children is unusually quiet and reserved. Each year more and more families set off to destinations far and near, exotic and prosaic, to spend Passover away at a hotel.

It is true that we appreciate the quiet. At the same time, however, I feel as though I am watching a trend in the American Jewish community that is a little disturbing and may have long-term ramifications most people haven't really considered.

More and more families are stretching the limits of their work vacation and their budget to make the trip away for Passover. Most will tell you that making Pesach is just too time consuming, scary or downright "overwhelming."

Anyone who has "made Pesach"-complete with a full spring cleaning, changing over the kitchen, and cooking for 62 people-can relate. I, too, have fantasized about locking up the house and heading off to greener (and cleaner) pastures. But though it may not be apparent initially, something precious is lost by going away for Passover. Specifically what gets lost is probably one of the most unique and enriching educational opportunities for children during the year.

Most of us who grew up in traditional homes have very fond memories of making Pesach-unwrapping the special dishes, dunking the silverware in boiling water, covering the countertops in aluminum foil. I still remember the pink earthenware dairy dishes that came out the day before Passover, the thrill at carefully and sentimentally unwrapping each dish that makes up the seder plate, including a little silver wheelbarrow that held the charoset. My husband, who does more than his share of the preparation, has used the opportunity each year to go through the laws with our older children as well as use the time to reminisce.

On the night of the seder, the preparation for the meal-setting the table, talking about all the items that go into a proper seder table, making the maror and charoset-are tangible, hands-on rituals that not only create a powerful memory in our children's minds but foster no end of fascinating conversations. Our children learn most from tangible rituals, those that bring our religion, our history and our values to life. Pesach is rife with some of the most powerful. "The reward is commensurate with the effort," our tradition teaches. It is hard for me to believe that a child (or adult, for that matter) who goes away to a resort for Passover will have the richness of experience, the richness of thought or the richness of memories.

I worry that what is being lost by this generation will be lost for future generations as well. If you have never seen your parents making Pesach, if the lore of the holiday is that it is just too overwhelming, then no child will grow up wanting to make Pesach at home or knowing how to do it. It is sad to think of generations and generations of unopened family heirlooms and charoset recipes that will never be made again.

Much of the responsibility for this new trend, it seems to me, has to fall on the shoulders of our rabbis and leadership. If our rabbinic leaders in the last decade had spent their time working out easier, halachically acceptable solutions for the myriad tasks involved in Passover instead of engaging in the one-upmanship in stringency that has characterized the development of Pesach preparation, we might find ourselves in a very different place.

Perhaps if we were told that the spring cleaning was optional, that making something kosher for Passover is not rocket science, and that so much of what we buy and cook can be easily adapted for Passover, maybe we wouldn't find ourselves a community feeling like it needs to run away for the holiday. Maybe more people would be willing to try making the holiday at home, with their children, with their community and with all the memories they would create. And maybe a secondary result would be that we as a community would find that the millions of dollars now being spent on Passover vacations could go for something more in keeping with our values.

So perhaps at this year's seder, no matter where, our leadership can commit to making Passover more accessible. And perhaps more of the community can say "This year we are in (fill in the blank), next year in Jerusalem-and if it can't be Jerusalem, maybe, at least, it will be at home."

more from beliefnet and our partners
Close Ad