Cleaning

Passover requires an intense amount of cleaning. ¬†I have read numerous articles about how it really should only take a few hours of cleaning. ¬†Dirt isn’t Chametz.

Chametz can make it’s way around the house though. ¬†The office is upstairs, a plate of crackers and a coffee while working on the computer. ¬†A snack downstairs while watching a little TV. ¬†The living room is connected to both the dining room and the kitchen.

I also have a very cute, very adorable little 18 month old son, who manages to get food every where.  He munches on a cracker and sets it down for later.  He finds it and then mashes it up (sound familiar?)

I need many hours to clean the house of Chametz because there are so many areas to clean. ¬†I also have the regular every day stuff to do too. ¬†It isn’t like life gets put on hold while Passover cleaning takes place. ¬†There are dinners to make, laundry to clean and put away, bathrooms sadly, do not clean themselves.

I used to do a full on Spring cleaning when I did my Passover cleaning. ¬†It just seemed to make sense. ¬†That was B.K. ¬†Before Kids. ¬†Now that I have my adorable son, I’ve limited the cleaning to actual Chametz only. ¬†But it still takes me a few weeks, working a few hours hear and there, until it’s all done.

How do you plan the Chametz Detox in your house?  How long does it take?

This post is part of Twitter’s @imabima’s list of writing prompts for the first two weeks of Nissan leading up to Passover.

Matzah

Yesterday’s post was on Chametz, the bread and character traits that limit us. ¬†The next them is Matzah.

I also hinted at yesterday, that Matzah is the bread made quickly, and symbolically related to our zeal to do Mitzvot.

I find it interesting that we enjoy Shabbat with slowly prepared Challah, but we enter Shabbat with haste.  There are always last minute things to do.  Showers to take, dishes to get into the oven and the hot plate to set up.  We are very much like Matzah, moving quickly to get all the jobs done.

I get to candle lighting and force myself to slow down, take a moment, put money in the Tzedakah box and breathe.  Then I pick up the match and light the Shabbat candles.

Shabbat Shalom!

This post is part of Twitter’s @imabima’s list of writing prompts for the first two weeks of Nissan leading up to Passover.

Chametz

Chametz is such a curiosity to me. ¬†During the rest of the year, we can enjoy it in its various forms, Challah, pizza, cakes…but in the days leading up to and all through Passover, we eliminate it from our lives. ¬†We seek it out, remove it and even burn any remaining Chametz.

We replace Chametz with Matzah, flat breads, made quickly. ¬†The Jewish people ate Matzah because they were in such a rush to leave Egypt (who wouldn’t be?) the bread had no time to rise.

Shabbat meals include fresh, yummy fluffy Challah.  Passover, dry Matzah.

I had learned that when it comes to a Mitzvah (or say, being rescued by G-d from slavery) we should rush and do it.  No hesitation, Just Do It as the Nike slogan says.

There are times when we need to sit back and just be, like Shabbat.  We eat Challah which usually takes hours to prepare (after rising and baking).  We hold on to Shabbat for as long as we can, with meals such as Melaveh Malkah.

Shabbat is meant for Chametz activities. ¬†I admit, sometimes I am a bit more Chametz in the day to day. ¬†I don’t always feel like making dinner. ¬†Or laundry. ¬†Sometimes I want to just sit in my pyjamas all day and relax. ¬†Eventually I push myself through, but my body, yearns to be Chametz.

This post is part of Twitter’s @imabima’s list of writing prompts for the first two weeks of Nissan leading up to Passover.

Five Things People Assume When Your Spouse/Partner Isn’t Jewish

Whenever we meet someone new, I always worry about the reaction they will have when I tell them that my husband isn’t Jewish. ¬†I keep having images of Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof ripping his clothes in mourning when he found out his daughter married a non Jew. While that hasn’t happened, I have found that some people can be pretty opinionated on the issue of intermarriage.

I think we have found a fairly open community, open in that people are accepting of us, but in some cases it is very much a “don’t talk/don’t tell” kind of relationship.

So here goes, my top five things people assume when your partner isn’t Jewish:

1) You don’t care about Jewish spirituality. ¬†I admit, when we got married, I didn’t care that much about Jewish spirituality, but I cared enough that I wanted certain elements in our ceremony (breaking the glass, mentioning G-d…). ¬†We have grown and have learned there is a lot to Jewish spirituality, a lot of amazing things!

2) You probably belong to a Reform synagogue. ¬†I actually go to a Modern Orthodox synagogue. ¬†I don’t feel that the Reform path is for me. ¬†And that’s ok.

3) You probably don’t keep Kosher or Shabbat. ¬†Yes, we are kosher in this household. ¬†We don’t have separate dishes yet, but it is on the radar. ¬†My son and I keep Shabbat, no driving, using the phone, etc., etc. ¬†We have a beautiful Shabbat dinner and lunch. ¬†That being said, I do give my husband a “pass” every now and again, because I know he needs that space.

4) You celebrate non Jewish holidays.  Every family is different.  We are a full time Jewish household.  Other families do some of the non Jewish holidays and some do everything.

5) You are the reason that Jewish continuity is threatened. ¬†Oy. ¬†Yes I know. ¬†It says in the Torah. ¬†When the time comes (after 120 years), I will have that discussion with G-d. ¬†I know plenty of Jewish people who are Jewishly married who don’t really care about Jewish spirituality. ¬†Yes, genetically they are Jewish and their kids are Jewish. ¬†From what I’m seeing it is getting harder and harder to guilt these types of families into marrying Jewish.

Ahad Ha’am has said,¬†”More than Jews have kept Shabbat, Shabbat has kept the Jews.” What does this mean? ¬†It means that Jewish continuity occurs in the families that have shown some interest in Jewish mitzvot, ritual, and spirituality. ¬†I read a statistic that about 30-40% of intermarried families are raising their children with Jewish spirituality. ¬†(Not too bad!)

Is a kid in an intermarried family, raised with Jewish values, more likely to “stay Jewish” (for lack of a better term) than a kid in a fully Jewish family raised with no Jewish values?

What would you add to the list?

Thinking Like a Jew

A family member of my husband‚Äôs, whom I‚Äôll call Devorah, recently told me that although I may have converted,¬†”you will never think like a Jew.” At the time I didn‚Äôt say anything. This woman is an elder and I respect her opinion. But later I kept running that sentence through my head, and I realized it struck a nerve. Is she right? As an adult convert, will I never ‚Äúthink‚ÄĚ like a Jew? And by extension, will my children never think like Jews, either?

After ruminating for days, I decided to ask my husband about Devorah’s comment.¬†He explained that Devorah believed that I converted out of a sense of duty to him, rather than on my own terms. I thought back to my conversion process and it struck me: I had kept the process intensely private, and I sat before the beit din (rabbinic court) and had my mikveh (ritual bath) only one week before my son was born. In Devorah‚Äôs mind, I was Jewish for the sake of my children.

Rather than being upset with an elderly relative with whom I had never explained my conversion process, I realized that I needed to work on becoming comfortable discussing my beliefs and my very real reasons for converting. And I needed to be discussing it with both my non-Jewish relatives and my husband‚Äôs Jewish ones. This will be difficult for me. I came from a family where we didn‚Äôt discuss faith or religion, and we certainly didn‚Äôt discuss individual belief in the context of religious doctrine. My discomfort with discussing faith is rooted in not having any prior experience talking about it, and I have to explore how to do that. Additionally, I need to learn to share my beliefs with my children and teach them to verbalize what they believe. Not because I want them to fit into any particular doctrine, but because I never want a comment like ‚Äúyou don‚Äôt think like a Jew‚ÄĚ to silence them.

Slavery

An obvious theme of Passover is slavery.  The Jewish people were slaves in Egypt.  The slavery was particularly awful because much of their work was back breaking labour meant more to waste time than to actually build anything.

The word for Egypt in Hebrew is Mitzrayim, meaning constriction, also relates to the theme of slavery.

Every year as we approach Passover, we are reminded to ask ourselves about what enslaves us.  What is slowing us down from reaching our potential?

I think my list can go on for a very long time.  I am impatient.  I am stubborn.  I very much cannot let things go until they are resolved.

Even today, I am tested on those weaknesses. ¬†I am trying to book lodging through a website. ¬†This should be a simple task. ¬†The owner has not yet accepted the reservation through the website (but he messaged me saying, “Great see you when you arrive!”) which means there is no reservation. ¬†Nothing will happen. ¬†I don’t get the actual location of this lodging and there is no payment. ¬†Talk about constriction!

I feel my anger and frustration building. ¬†It isn’t easy to find the best place for a vacation and once you find THE place, you want things to go very smoothly. ¬†I keep staring at my inbox waiting for the confirmation. ¬†Refresh. ¬†Refresh. ¬†Refresh.

I know what I am doing. ¬†I know it’s all from G-d. ¬†I try short bursts of busy work, but I am back at the laptop. ¬†Refresh.

What enslaves you?

This post is the third post, part of Twitter’s @imabima’s list of writing prompts for the first two weeks of Nissan leading up to Passover.

Retelling

One of the main activities of Passover is the retelling of the story of Exodus.  We retell the story to remember.  We retell the story to learn from the past.  The cycle of Jewish holidays is described to be spiral; although we end up at the same point after each cycle, hopefully we are moving up and growing.

One would hope that in the retelling of the Passover story each year, we will gain new perspective.  We will pick up on some detail we missed the previous year or some  lesson that we will integrate into our lives.

In our family, there is homework for our Seder.  I ask each person (I admit, so far it has only been my husband and myself) to share something connected to one of the themes of Passover.  The idea is to find something meaningful to share and hopefully in the sharing we will pick up that new thing each year.

This year I am excited to be hosting our first ever guests at one of our Seders. I have already asked them to find something to share and they are very excited to participate.

How do you retell the story each year?

This post is part of Twitter’s @imabima’s list of writing prompts for the first two weeks of Nissan leading up to Passover.

Converting to Jewish – the book

I’m working on a book (actually, I’m more working on the book proposal and gathering data for the book). Essentially, the book is about my own conversion story, but also about my own struggle to raise a Jewish family that also embraces and celebrates a non-Jewish heritage. I’ve got a questionnaire so I can get others’ stories to interweave with my own. ¬†Here’s a brief overview of the topic, and I’ve attached a copy of the questionnaire.

It’s estimated that nearly half of all Jewish marriages are ones in which one member of the couple is not Jewish.¬†While this raises all sorts of questions about the future survival of the Jewish people, what interested me most are the questions that were more personal in nature.¬†What does a marriage between people of different backgrounds look like? If the decision is made to raise your children in one faith, or one tradition, who compromises what?¬†Converting to Jewish¬†explores those questions and offers some much needed guidance on what happens after the conversion, and what raising a family with someone of a dramatically different culture and tradition is really like.

This book will serve as a inspirational guide to anyone in a relationship that deals with interfaith or intercultural differences.¬†For those of us who convert because our spouse is Jewish, and we don’t want our family to be something we aren’t. This is the book I wish I had had when I started, an honest look at what it takes to be in an interfaith or intercultural relationship, how to navigate the trickiest aspects, and how to respect, celebrate and embrace the differences, even as you focus on what brings you together as a family.

If you’d like to fill out the questionnaire (a Word document), I’d love it. Ideally, what I’d like is to be able to weave in others’ stories along with my own. All responses will be anonymous. Please let me know if you have any questions or thoughts; my email is melissa.cohen0214@yahoo.com and my website is melissaannecohen.com.

Believing

On twitter and instagram, @imabima has made a list of writing prompts for the first two weeks of the month of Nissan.  I have decided to do my best and try to write something for each theme (each day).  Day 1 is Believing.

I believe that G-d loves me and you. ¬†I believe that G-d makes things happen when the time is right. ¬†I believe that G-d sends hints our way to let us know, He’s there and listening, just be patient (a character trait I admit to be lacking). ¬†I believe everything happens for a reason, we just don’t always understand the reason.

I came to believe because when I arrived at my “now what?” moment a few years ago, G-d answered. ¬†It started with a simple invitation to Shabbat that I was unable to accept. ¬†It opened doors. ¬†In fact it opened up my soul.

What do you believe?