Monday, April 19, 2010

Celebrating Passover in Israel

Ha lachma anya
[This is the bread of affliction]
( …)
Hashata hakha, l'shana haba b'ar'a d'yisrael
[Now we are here, next year we will be in the Land of Israel].

Every Jew who lives in the Gola [the exile, out of Israel] always dreams to be in Israel and celebrate Passover. Passover is the celebration of freedom that starts on the eve of 15 of Nisan (March 29, this year). The preparation for the holiday starts -for some people- months before with the removal of the chametz (leaven) from the house. We do a deep cleaning: each corner of the house needs to be clean of chametz, (mainly means anything that has one of the five major grains: wheat, rye, barley, oats and spelt). Also, depending on whether the person is Ashkenazi or Sephardi, and he or she had more things that he/she considers also chametz, this could significantly affect the perception of what needs to be cleaned. However, I will not get into this here. Suffice it to say, some Jews are stricter than others.

Sometimes the cleaning can be very painful, depending of each person. We are doing this to remember that our forefathers, when they were leaving Egypt were in a hurry, and did not have time to let their bread rise. I remembered when I was a child, my mom and I used to clean also the walls and the doors of each room in the house. I thought it was unnecessary, but it was the tradition of her home, and she kept it, and now I keep it and my husband thinks that I am “cuckoo” -- but is a family tradition and that is what really identify us a Jews, the traditions. Such time-honored traditions explain why we need to remove all the chametz form our homes, also from our work place, from our cars and from every place where we will be during the chol-hamoed [the intermediate days' between the first and last days of Passover] which we allow for work or travel.

As you can see, the process of cleaning the home of all chametz in order to be ready for Passover is a huge task.

A few days before Passover started, we went to Mea-Shearim in Jerusalem, the home of the ultra-orthodox Jews. To go to this area is really interesting: it is like walking in a village of 100 years which has not changed at all: the styles of living and of clothing are the same as they had been in Northern and Eastern Europe for their ancestors. When I go there, the Amish communities in the States came to my mind. But, anyway, when we went there this time, I saw something very interesting, which I had not seen before. It was the Hagalat Kelim [ceremonial dish washing for Passover].

We usually have a second set of dishes just for Passover, which we save year after year. But, some people just wash some of their dishes and do not need to buy new ones for the Holiday. As you can see in the pictures, (taken by Eyal Dor-Ofer), the people bring their dishes and utensils and other person do the “hagala”. I am pretty sure there are some utensils and/or dishes that cannot be “kasherize” but most of them yes.

After this, we went to Ben Yehuda street, it is a nice place where to shop!!!! And also, while you walking along the boulevard, you can listen to people who play their violin or organ and the pedestrians give them money. In this boulevard we met two young ultra orthodox boys offering to sell your chametz. Is not enough that you will clean the house from the chametz, but also you need to “sell it”. In earlier times, the people “sold” their chametz to a non-Jew and it was taken out. But, when it became a practical problem, the people use to put the chametz in a locked place and then sold it to a non-Jew. In case that the person cannot arrange the sell personally, so he/she gives to Rabbi the “authorization” to sell his/her chametz. Therefore, we gave the “authorization” to these two boys to ask their rabbi to “sell” our chametz.

When my cleaning was completed, on the night of the 14 of Nisan, I prepared ten pieces of bread and put each one in a piece of paper, and then I distributed them around the house (not in the bathrooms) and turned off the lights. Before the searching and turning off the lights, my husband lit a candle, recited the blessing, and with a wooden spoon, and feather, start to look for the bread’s pieces which I had “hidden”. He put each piece in a paper bag – and, when he finished the search, I turned on the lights and kept the bag in order to burn it next day, before 10 AM.
While we were in the States, my husband used to go to the synagogue and burn the bread with other people. This time was different, however. We went to a park, and burned the bread. See the pictures under the title “burning the chametz”.

During chol-hamoed, we went to Jerusalem, to the Kotel. According to the Torah, there are three festivities during which Jews must go to Jerusalem: Pesach [Passover], Shavuot [Festival of Weeks], and Sukkoth [The Feast of Tabernacles]. We are here in Israel, so we went to Jerusalem -- it was a wonderful day, not so hot, not so cold we tried to get in to the Old City, but it was REALLY crowded. It so happened that the day we chose, without our knowing it, was the day that was Birkat Hakohanim [Priestly Benediction] at the Kotel [Western Wall]: “Thousands of Kohanim (descendants of the priestly tribe) join together in one voice to bless the Jewish nation.” It was amazing!! These pictures were taking from the Web, it was impossible to take any picture there, for you could not move.

Being in Israel during Passover, smelling the land, listening to prayers, walking on the streets, give feelings completely different than when you live in the Gola. We celebrate our Seder as always, but the feelings we experiments were amazing. Everything was just chaval al ha-zeman, as we say in modern Hebrew: Great!, Awesome!

No comments:

Post a Comment