Passover is a lot like dieting…In the beginning, before one starts to diet, there is a lot of preparation both mentally and physically. The early-days of dieting is easy because everything is new and the promise of a leaner body awaits just around the bend. However, the middle part of dieting is laborious, to say the least. The initial pounds have already melted off, but those final ten pesky ones are lingering, threatening to make me go and blow the whole diet for a well-deserved piece of chocolate cake. The middle days of Passover are a lot like that as well. The seders are over, the chametz is put away or for some – it has been sold, the newness of Passover has worn off and the look of another piece of matzah is about as appealing as a warm coat on a summer day. However, like dieting, both the practice of eating matzah for a week is a discipline that is well practiced.
When I was a child, I remember going off to school with my peanut butter and jelly on matzah sandwich. Although many of my friends also had matzah lunches, there was a segment of the population that was fascinated by my lunch and the fact that I would not join them in eating Frito’s. I explained the holiday of Passover to them and my mother made sure I had enough extra matzah so that I could give pieces away for my friends to try. Eating matzah for the week of Passover made me a symbol of Judaism to those who would otherwise have no idea what Jewish people practiced. I was an example, in a positive sense. It set me apart from my other friends, but I was still accepted and somewhat exotic and distinctive.
As a child, I did not always understand that eating matzah for 8 days (I grew up Conservative, so we kept the holiday for 8 days; Reform Jews have it a little easier) was not only a character building discipline, but also a way to positively show off the role that Judaism played in my life. Sure I could have ‘cheated’ and eaten one of those Frito’s, but that is not the point of the holiday. The point is for us to experience the journey from slavery to freedom. And for those of us who have kept Passover for the entire time know, that the first taste of bread at the end of the holiday is as liberating as crossing the Red Sea. May you be blessed with a happy, healthy and easy Passover holiday!