Pesach 2024

Different this year—sadder, harder, more imminent. I am uncomfortable with the phrase, bring them home. It seems to place the onus on the brave Israeli soldiers.  Let our people go, might be more apt.

I can recall prior times of pre-Pesach angst. Waiting for our son to return from yeshiva while the number 18 buses were blowing up on the streets of Jerusalem. I remember scrubbing shelves until my hands were raw hoping that somehow my efforts would translate into peace 7,000 miles away.

There have been other impossible seasons.  Our daughter in Israel during the first Intifada. A grandchild’s bar mitzvah with Scuds flying overhead.   Time spent in a safe room in the middle of the night.

But this year—especially this year, every night, every day, every moment since October 7, has been different.  On the evening of April 22, as we gather around the Seder table, we will recall our years of pain, and we will celebrate our freedom from captivity.  But this Seder night will be different because we know that there are those with hardened hearts who yet refuse to let our people go.


Pesach Dream

Last night I saw a large, unfamiliar house with many rooms—all of which I’d never seen before. I raced frantically through dark hallways and dusty corridors lined with shelves, the shelves lined with papers, record albums and old CDs in plastic cases. I opened drawers filled with things I did not recognize. And yet—and yet—I had to find the space—to make room for the Pesach dishes and the food. When would I clean?  What to do with the clutter? So much clutter. And the food—oh the food!

In the dark haze of sleep, I have seen houses like this before. Places with stairways leading to attics, beds covered in lacy quilts—old fashioned and untouched since the person who once lived there has gone or passed on. I have visited subterranean warrens where cabinets overflow with ancient medicine bottles and toothpaste tubes.

These dreams, I surmise, speak to me of worries buried deep or on the surface of my thoughts. Some, (my husband among them), might say it is months too early to think about the Pesach dishes. And we no longer own a home. We sold our house last year and moved to a small apartment. Our house was never dusty. The shelves and cabinets were organized and orderly.

So why now, in this much smaller place do I harbor these troublesome thoughts? I suspect it is because, just yesterday, I decided on a plan. I know when I will clean each room, when I will switch the dishes, shop for food, cook. I have settled on the days and dates and set it down in writing.  Overkill?  Unnecessary? Maybe.  But habits die hard. I feel better when I know what lies ahead. No need to worry, no reason to panic—except, I suppose, in my dreams.


Potato Salad

Such a little thing—a small container of potato salad. One forkful and suddenly, it is summer. I taste the years of backyard barbeques. The burgers burnt over coals fired with too much lighter-fluid, hotdogs and baked beans. I hear the children’s laughter, the screen door slamming, ice crackling in a pitcher. I see the picnic table with the black and white umbrella. Bicycles lying haphazardly on the dead-end street. The crabapple tree. The lamp post. A bush of roses. The garden hose.

 Ahh . . . it is the season of potato salad.



The two story with the wrap around porch that I lived in as a child. The bedroom I shared with my sister. The kitchen with the back door and the long wooden stairway leading to the yard where an oak tree shaded the picnic table.  The small yellow house on the river I shared with my first husband and our first child.  The stately colonial with the red carpet in the living room which was home when the second child was born. The house with the pink kitchen where I lived with the two small children when the first husband and I separated. The interim rental apartment and then, the little white house at the bottom of the dead-end road where I lived with my second husband and the children. Then the four-bedroom ranch with the screened in porch, the library and the woods behind, where we moved when the children were teenagers and which we sold when we bought the tiny apartment in Jerusalem and moved to the small rental apartment in suburban New Jersey.

 Sometimes when we drive past sprawling mansions with landscaped grounds, or small-town capes with cheerful windows. When we pass white fences, or clusters of daffodils lining walkways. Sometimes, I think that we will never again own a house. Our children own houses—have owned houses for several decades. They have mortgages, fences, sons and daughters—several of whom will soon be setting out to begin the cycle once more.

I am glad not to worry about lawns that must be mowed, leaves to be raked, snow to be shovelled, roofs that need mending, basements that flood. Glad to be seated here at my desk in the stark simplicity of this apartment. Remembering the children in the dusk of summer nights, on snowy winter days.  Cheeks rosy or tan.  Lemonade and hot chocolate each in its season.

Never again will there be the need to walk through empty rooms of a house with a for sale sign.


Article by Author/s
Anna Gotlieb
Anna Gotlieb is the author of four books: Between the Lines, In Other Words, Full Circle. and Pinkey’s. She spends a few minutes each day collecting her thoughts. Sometimes she shares them with others.

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