Summary: For many people, the “v.” is for “versus”, not for “and”. In the ongoing battle between a Chag Kasher versus Sa’meach, Kasher seems to be winning again.
I am neither a cook nor a chef.
While I love to eat, my wife prohibits me from doing any food preparation for fear -not without reason or history- that should I venture into the kitchen, her holy sanctuary, the entire room – no, the house itself! – would become un-kosher.
Over time, my place has become confined to the kitchen table. It is there that I must sit and wait for my meals, not unlike our dog (which she prefers on most days) who waits before his bowl. Remarkably, I am afforded more table scraps than him. Score one for me.
This is not to say that I cannot approach the sink. My share of the household bargain falls on cleaning up after meals. My wife considers the dishwasher and garbage pail safe terrain, as I can usually deduce whether I just consumed a dairy or meat meal.
That all ends on Passover.
When I think of my wife on Passover, I am reminded of the final scene from the movie Gallipoli where manic soldiers charge an Ottoman trench, knowing of their certain death. A fury fills her eyes as the holiday approaches and I know that no cleaning I do could ever satisfy her Kashrut Compulsive Disorder (commonly referred to by Jewish psychiatrists as KCD). This non-silent killer has taken more husbands than latkes on Hanukah.
My wife, (let’s call her “Pharaoh” to protect her identity from the teachers in school who think of her as a sweet, mild-mannered parent) despises Passover. Her venom is matched by her vigilance as she tries to square the invisible shmura matzah of Passover kashrut stringencies with her own KCD.
The Pharaohs of ancient Egypt had it easier than my modern Pharaoh. The ancient kings had teams of advisers and thousands of slaves to execute their commands. Today’s Pharaoh is left with a spouse who only gets to clean in the kitchen during most of the year because we have two dishwashers.
More warriors are clearly needed for the task.
New York has an outsourced cleaning industry which features companies with jolly names like “Molly Maids” and “PIG” which stands for “Partners in Grime”. When these companies drop the non-kosher acronyms and become armed with blowtorches, perhaps Pharaoh will “let these people come.”
Well, in truth, they do come. They come a few times in succession to make sure that one team picked up where the first team may have been sloppy. At $400 a pop, the twelve cleaning tours of duty make a not so subtle reminder that we could have gone to a Passover program in the sunshine somewhere.
The cleaning troupes do not absolve me of cleaning (nor the sin of making Passover at home). My tasks are to lift and move large objects around the house in case a morsel of bread was carried there by a microscopic antisemitic mouse. Dishwashers are pulled from their moorings. Refrigerators are yanked from the walls. I am ordered to lift the island in the kitchen, until my rabbi steps in on my behalf (only because he thought I was too weak). My dog snickers at my misery. Score one for him.
After eighteen gallons of bleach have been pored over every inch of the kitchen, and the fleas on my dog would no longer consider smelling (let alone eating) anything in the house, my next task is assigned. Foiling.
Foiling on Pesach has nothing to do with fencing. It involves rolling out aluminum foil over counter tops as a punishment for not giving one’s wife a new kitchen. For the hardcore, the foiling of tables, chairs, cushions is also warranted. Our family is so famous for our foiling, that we get Happy Passover cards from Alcoa.
As the first seder arrives, Pharaoh starts to resemble my former wife again. The house is indeed clean enough that even Eliyahu would be impressed. Family and friends gather around the table to recount the timeless story… of how no one in the shtetls had more than one pot and somehow made Passover.
As has become our tradition, before I recite the Kiddush to start the seder, my wife inverts the very order of the seder. She sings out in a loud, yet exhausted, teary voice “Hashana ha’ba’a b’Yerushayim” – Next year in Jerusalem. Everyone joins in.