How to free yourself from slavery this Passover

Tags: Passover, History, Land and Nature, Judaism, Jewish Identity, Israel Engagement, Antisemitism, Laura Ben David

By Laura Ben-David

Passover is that holiday that stresses people out more than anything. As a terrible cleaner (I think I truly have a 'learning disability' in 'cleaning'...) I was particularly susceptible to this stress. I could never imagine being able to get it all together in time; no matter how many times I had managed to pull it off in the past! Then one year everything changed.

I’m not a particularly organized person. But the year that everything changed I organized myself not only for THAT year's Passover, but for every subsequent Passover. (To the point that nowadays I stress over why am I NOT stressing, feeling like I must be missing something if I'm not actively stressing before Passover like so many others). What I created for myself is hardly proprietary, and I'm happy to share.

You see years ago, in one of my previous lives (or so it seems anyway) I was an RN (Registered Nurse) working full-time, night shifts, in a hospital in Boca Raton, Florida. Suddenly, as it does every year, Passover – along with a pile of company – was rapidly approaching. I went into my usual panic, which was compounded by my very busy, exhausting schedule.

One night, at the hospital during my shift, there was a lull in the activity. Frantic about all that needed to be done for the upcoming holiday, and unable to do much about it while sitting at the Pediatrics nurses’ station, I started to make a list. And then another. And another. I made a menu, taking me through all eight days of the holiday, down to the desserts and the picnic lunches for the day trips. Then I made a shopping list based around the menu. And I made to-do lists. When I’d listed everything I could possibly think of, I started looking for recipes. I polled some of the Jewish doctors (oddly, there were hardly any Jewish nurses…) and got some to even bring in cookbooks which I photocopied from. (One of our favorite Pesach breakfast items, which we erroneously called ‘Abuelos’ and have made every year since then, came from those photocopies…)

By the time Passover came around that year I had a binder filled with lists, recipes, tips, games to play and things to say at the seder. It's like the whole Passover in a book. Someday I may publish it. But in the meantime I'm happy to share my tips and my lists that anyone, anywhere in the world, can customize to make their own. But be sure to save what you put together for years to come!

Naturally, the lists change from year to year. Depending upon how many people you are and how the holiday/intermediary days are configured, the menus will have to be adjusted, the amounts modified, and occasional new menu items may be added to your traditional ones. Our lists have certainly evolved over the years with our expanded family, aliyah to Israel, and available ingredients. But the base remains the same.

Each year as we make adjustments during the holiday or find that five bags of sugar wasn't actually enough, we needed six(!), I'll make corrections and additions to that year's list. By the end of the holiday I have an even tighter, more specific list than the year before. And I have to say that aside from the cleaning (which I am still really lousy at!) Passover is one of my favorite holidays.

Living in Israel as we are, my family has begun pressuring me to drop our family's Ashkenazi tradition not to eat ‘kitniyot’ on Passover (legumes; like rice, beans and corn) as many other Israelis have done. I'm tempted to oblige… and certainly I can adapt my menus and my lists. But we love our Pesach food. Which special dish should I drop to make room for the rice? Can we make it seven days without popcorn? No one is suffering for lack of peanut butter in our house on Passover. Or lack of anything. For one week out of the year my family has home cooked meals every day and a whole bakery’s worth of homemade baked goods. And the whole land of Israel to explore while we're eating. What more could we want?

Here are sample lists for you to copy and use as you like:

The Pesach Lists - Menus

The Pesach Lists - Shopping

Inspired by her Aliyah experience, Laura began writing and never stopped. She is the author of the book, MOVING UP: An Aliyah Journal, a memoir of her move to Israel. She has spoken about Israel and Aliyah all over the United States and Israel. Formerly the head of social media at Nefesh B'Nefesh, Laura is currently the director of marketing at Shavei Israel, as well as a marketing consultant.

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Tags: Passover, History, Land and Nature, Judaism, Jewish Identity, Israel Engagement, Antisemitism, Laura Ben David

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