fbpx

My Pesach Preparation Avoidance Strategy

I’m not alone in feeling that somewhere along the way, Pesach became too complicated, too stressful, and too expensive.
[additional-authors]
April 10, 2024
JodiJacobson/Getty Images

The other day my husband was surprised to find me arranging and rearranging nine brand-new pillows on the family room sectional sofa. I knew what was coming. Before he began to speak, I wore a look of fierce concentration as I studied Pinterest diagrams illustrating ideal couch pillow arrangements.  

“If you don’t mind my asking,” Jeff began, “Pesach is only two weeks away. I’ve been listening to you talking about all the shopping and cleaning and writing you needed to do this week. Why are you fussing with new pillows?” He eyed the bounty of couch pillows we already had, now abandoned like so much chametz on the floor. “And what about all those?” he nodded in the direction of the rejected pillows. “What was wrong with those?” 

These are dangerous questions in a marriage. When a husband questions his wife’s sudden compulsion to redecorate, better have the relationship self-help books handy. However, I answered unapologetically. 

“I was shopping for Pesach, but after I found the mixing bowls and pots at Home Goods, all the new colorful pillows were calling me. They had so many new ones that a bunch of them had fallen on the floor. I started to pick them up, but there was no room on the shelves. So, I put them in my basket. I could hardly see over the top of the cart to get to the checkout line. Anyway, remember that at the seder anyone who wants a pillow for their chair should have one available.”

“Looks like we’ll have enough pillows for every seder guest up and down the block,” Jeff said. “I just don’t want to see you more stressed next week with all the food shopping and cooking.” 

“Stress is my middle name. Why will this Pesach be different than any other Pesach? I’m not ready to fight the crowds at the kosher markets. I just . . . can’t. It won’t kill me to procrastinate another day or two.” I then realized, looking with consternation at the diagrams, that trying to copy the pillow arrangements was a hopeless mission. As soon as anyone sat on the couch, even Pinterest-worthy set-ups would become disheveled. In the meanwhile, I switched the peach and green lumbar pillow for a solid peach square pillow in one corner. Still not right. You ought to be making your Pesach menus now, I told myself. I kicked that thought away to focus on the urgent issue of pillow arranging.  

Pesach celebrates God’s redemption of our people. It asks us to consider what enslaves us, and the meaning of true freedom. But somehow, I’ve never broken out of my own form of Pesach slavery. Right after Purim, I go through stages of denial, anxiety and avoidance — often channeled into sudden, urgent home decorating projects. (Last year I redid the porch planters.) Finally, I arrive at acceptance, girded with cleaning gloves, a credit card suffering repetitive stress injuries, shopping, and cooking. Rinse and repeat. 

But on seder night, I know I will feel blessed and grateful, with a sense of awe at God’s providence throughout our unbelievable, miraculous history. This year, these feelings will be heightened. Despite our grief and losses, miracles and other signs of God’s protection are evident every day.  

I’m not alone in feeling that somewhere along the way, Pesach became too complicated, too stressful, and too expensive. Is anybody working on this problem, maybe in a think tank in Jerusalem or Tel Aviv? I sure hope so. But maybe, as inconvenient as this may be, the only way to fully appreciate the majesty of the seders and the deep meaning in the story of our redemption is to toil significantly preparing for it.

The clock is ticking, and I’m about to brave the hordes of other Jews stocking up on matzah meal, grape juice and briskets.

The clock is ticking, and I’m about to brave the hordes of other Jews stocking up on matzah meal, grape juice and briskets. I’ll remind myself that unity is Job #1, and if someone grabs the last package of kosher-for-Pesach quinoa, I will accept it with quiet fortitude. When I come home, exhausted and suffering severe sticker shock from the exorbitant prices, I’ll fall onto our family room sofa, carve out a space to rest among the bevy of my new spring pillows, close my eyes and rest.


Judy Gruen is the author of “Bylines and Blessings,” “The Skeptic and the Rabbi,” and several other books. She is also a book editor and writing coach.  

Did you enjoy this article?
You'll love our roundtable.

Editor's Picks

Latest Articles

wildpixel/Getty Images

Politically Homeless

Although I used to just call myself a moderate, that’s never actually been accurate.

The Good German

Christian brothers and sisters, do your Jewish friends think of you as a person who will stand by them?

More news and opinions than at a
Shabbat dinner, right in your inbox.

More news and opinions than at a Shabbat dinner, right in your inbox.

More news and opinions than at a Shabbat dinner, right in your inbox.