Monday, April 28, 2008

Happily turning back the Pesach kitchen, for a change

[ hosts Haveil Havalim #163 here; thanks for the links!]

After Pesach we turn the kitchen back into its year-round self, washing and storing dishes, packing up Pesach goods, stashing Haggados and matzah covers, rolling back counter liners, shredding tin foil…

After Succos we take down the kids’ handmade Succah decorations, bring in the table and chairs, store the schach, dismantle the walls…

For me, each Shabbos and Yom Tov has a similar, if simpler, ritual: I gather my derashah and shiur notes and toss them into the Recycle bin in my office, and with that release all of the tension and nerves and exhaustion associated with that particular day. It’s an effective way to let go; one week later I look back and am surprised that it has only been seven days since the event. It always feels like much more time has passed, and that's often a good thing.

This year, though, there’s more I want to remember than I want to forget. There were some disappointments (I didn’t enjoy my last-days derashos – they were more simplistic than I would have liked) but the overall Yom Tov was good, thank Gd.

I hope to remember my two older kids staying up and participating nicely in the second Seder. (the first was a different story, for another time…)
I hope to remember squeezing in two afternoons to go with the family to playgrounds.
I hope to remember the kids davening nicely in shul, for the most part, and standing under my tallis for Birchas Kohanim without fighting.
I hope to remember the people who responded well to the Aliyah push in one of my drashos.
I hope to remember the extended walks we took on those long Yom Tov afternoons.
I hope to remember playing with our innocently happy 2 year old. Granted he now prefers his visiting grandparents to me, I’ll win him back before long.

Customarily, my family sits down to a meal together on the last afternoon of each Yom Tov. For Pesach we call it the Chasal meal, referring to the חסל סידור פסח part of the Haggadah, when we declare that we have successfully fulfilled the mitzvot of the Seder. We eat a light meal, and sing songs of the Seder, and of Yom Tov in general.

The vision of such a meal is beautiful, but it rarely works out that way. After two and sometimes three days of being together in the house, after more than a week out of school, the kids are often out of control. Guests are thinking about getting home ASAP that night, I’m nervous about the impending obligations which will set in after Havdalah, we’re thinking about setting up the kitchen, doing the laundry, re-stocking the pantry, etc. I’m rushing to finish before heading back to shul for daf, and wondering if something is going to go wrong with my attempt to re-purchase the chametz (Don’t laugh, it actually happened one year – the person who had bought our chametz went missing that day!).

This year, though, the Chasal meal was great. The kids talked about their favorite parts of Yom Tov, we finished off a lot of the leftovers of various meals, we had a good nap beforehand and the mood was relaxed.

I wish I knew what worked right this year, and why Yom Tov was so nice, so that we could replicate it next year, but I don’t know what it was – preparation beforehand, patience during, some זכות from helping someone create shalom bayis this year, I don’t know. But I’d sure like to get it right again next time... in Yerushalayim.

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