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So the Kids Will Ask

Yitti Berkovic

There is always that moment on Erev Pesach when my feet begin to throb. 

It is that achy culmination of standing for hours and hours on end – peeling and dicing and frying – until even the cloud slippers my daughter insists are the most comfortable shoes ever feel like cement blocks under my screaming soles.

I know you get it.

You’ve all been there.

So, I can kvetch to you for a few seconds – one aching-foot woman to another aching-foot woman – because I know you’ll understand. Honestly, you’re the only people I can kvetch to these days because here in my own home, I need to keep my kvetching to myself.  

If not, there will be mutiny.

Because my audience of (reluctant) helpers is watching me closely. As my children stand alongside me – peeling and dicing and sneaking brownies as they come out of the oven – they’re dreaming of escaping. They’re hatching schemes to hide from me in the basement or to order from Batya’s Kitchen without me knowing.

So if I let a weary word escape my lips, they’ll turn on me in an instant, and I know exactly what they’ll say: “Ma, if you find making Pesach so hard, why do you do it? Why don’t we just go away like so many other families do?”

I’ll shrug and ask, “Where would we even go?” but for my kids, it won’t be a rhetorical question. They’ll be ready with their answers.

My daughter’s eyes will light up. “Why don’t we go to a hotel?”

(Clearly, she hasn’t yet taken an Economics class.)

And my son will ask glumly, “Why can’t we go to Orlando like the rest of my class?”

(Should I break it to him that an Orlando getaway takes more work, not less?)

And my other son will stare despairingly at the ten pounds of potatoes still waiting for his attention and moan, “Why can’t we get invited somewhere where someone else does the cooking?”

(Hmm. Those invitations must have gotten lost in the mail.)

But none of my ready answers will placate my children (they’ll still be plotting to burn every peeler in the bi’ur chametz bonfire), because with all the Pesach options being advertised in the magazines, they’re convinced our family has gotten the short shrift. As we set the table for the seder on the dining room table we use all year (albeit with an extra leaf), they dream of destinations unknown, magical places in tropical climates where they can recline like kings not only at the Seder but all Yom Tov long.

It’s at moments like these that I wish I could scream at the top of my lungs: Hey, kids! We are the lucky ones!

And I’ll mean it!

I’m no Pollyanna and I do my share of kvetching in the pre-Pesach runup (just ask my husband), but I really do find so much joy in making Yom Tov in my own home.  

As hard as I work, I love the feeling that I’m doing exactly what I am supposed to be doing, that I’m doing what generations of women did before me all the way back to the avodas perach in Mitzrayim.

I know my sweat and tears pale when compared to my great-great-great grandmothers’ efforts, women who plucked their own chicken feathers and scaled their own fish and could never have dreamed of the conveniences I find on the supermarket shelves. (Betcha they couldn’t pick up kosher l’Pesach cakes at Costco or buy their maror already ground).

They worked hard for their families. They took pride in it.

So, my kids might be grousing, but I feel a unique thrill when I open up my Pesach cabinets and take out my Pesach pots and pans, a sizeable collection amassed over many years of buying just two or three things. 

And I love it when I’m exhausted and spent after a marathon cooking session, but then I survey my kitchen counters and my freezer shelves and I think – I might not be super geshikt, but I can convince someone that I am – at least for today. 

And I’m on a high it when I sit down at my Seder table and take in the scene around me, inhaling the joy that fills my lungs and my pores and my heart. I feel exhilarated when my dining room table is adorned with ka’arahs and crowded with extra seats and extra faces. There may not be tablescapes at my Sedarim (I have a better chance of splitting the Yam Suf than pulling off some fancy color scheme), but I love is when the plates are scraped clean. I love it when everyone is so immersed in joyful schmoozing or mellifluous singing or another explanation of Ha Lachma Anya –when all the hard work becomes a distant memory and all I can think is: I wouldn’t change this for anything in the world.

Most of all, I love the gratitude that consumes me when I’ve realized I’ve merited another Pesach, that I’m healthy and able to make Pesach, that I can afford to make Pesach (even with inflation!), that I have my husband and children around my table, and that my children have grandparents and cousins who have squeezed in and joined us. What could be better than this?

But I get it.

It’s tough to explain all these feeling to my kids – especially because they don’t know how it feels to stand in my (uncomfortable) shoes or to see the world from my perspective. They only know there are more potatoes to peel, more dishes to dry, more floors to sweep – while some of their friends are sitting at the beach and getting a tan.

But I realize that we do so many things during the Seder so the children will ask – so maybe we do some things before the seder for the very same reason.

I want my children to ask, “Why do we work so hard?” and I hope they’ll believe me when I tell them “Because it is worth it!”

Real simcha always takes effort. Real simcha takes conscious choice. Sometimes it even requires aching feet. My kids can dream of Pesach in Cancun or Pesach in Encore or some form of Pesach that doesn’t require any vegetable peeling, but I hope that when they get to my age, they’ll appreciate the joy of rolling up their sleeves and standing for too many hours and doing the hard work themselves. 

Achy feet? I’ll make an appointment at the podiatrist after Pesach.

Right now, I’ll just lean into the pain and savor my simchas Yom Tov that can never be bought. It has to be earned, and I’m so grateful that it is mine for the taking.

Chag Kasher V’Sameach to you all!


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