Some additional simple ways to reduce the stress of Passover prep:
• Involve the children as much as possible
• Stay focused on one task at a time
• Write down everything you need to do
• Keep a list of accomplishments
• Take 10-minute breaks
• Don’t expect to make everyone happy
• Refuse to compare yourself with other people
• Listen to music
• Change your usual responses to challenging family members
• Avoid bringing up past mistakes or failures – both yours and others’
• Don’t expect people to change
• Adjust your perceptions to include peace, compassion, forgiveness and gratitude
“Let’s face it,” said Rabbi Simon Benzaquen, “Pesach is a little crazy.”
Just remembering the exodus from Egypt is one of the 613 commandments, said the rabbi of Seward Park’s Sephardic Bikur Cholim congregation. So why is it necessary to clean every square inch of our homes, cars and workspaces, to change out dishes, and cook enough food for a small army?
“Do we need a holiday that is so physically demanding?” he asked.
Benzaquen is not, of course, going to downplay the significance of Passover.
“It’s all about preparing our hearts and our souls for what slavery was,” he said.
But Passover doesn’t have to be crazy, and that was one of the major points of the Pesach Learn-In held at Bikur Cholim Machzikay Hadath on March 18. The morning of learning was part of an effort to increase adult spiritual programming, spearheaded by Marlene Kaplan Kravette and Richard Berger. Last fall’s “Elul Learn-In” preceding the High Holidays was a big success, and the congregation plans to hold a program for Tisha B’Av and a second Elul learn-in this year.
In addition to lectures on spiritual preparation given by Benzaquen, BCMH’s Rabbi Moshe Kletenik, Ezra Bessaroth’s Rabbi Ron-Ami Meyers, the West Seattle Kollel’s Rabbi David Fredman and LivingJudaism’s Rabbi Mark Spiro, Jewish community members flocked to workshops on Passover simplification strategies.
“Keep it simple and fresh,” said Evelyn Prizont, who presented on “Pesach Recipes to Die For” along with Rena Berger, who spoke to “Creating the Ultimate Seder Plate.”
Prizont and Berger passed out a packet of recipes that included both fresh, healthy options — like homemade mayonnaise, poached fish and lemon-mint granita — and traditional recipes passed down in Berger’s family, like kneidlach, steak and potato kugel, and wine and nut cake.
Though she shared six different charoset recipes (including fig and Port wine charoset and a candied walnut charoset), Berger noted there’s not much you can do to pump up the seder plate. Instead, she emphasized that seder hosts should not go overboard with the meal. One only needs to swap out one or two items from a traditional Shabbat meal to make it Passover friendly.
“Keep it simple,” she said. “Don’t stress out.”
“Dust is not chametz,” said Kletenik in the well-attended workshop he led with Richard Berger on holiday stress reduction. “It’s not spring cleaning. You don’t have to wash the windows. You don’t have to organize the closets.”
Still, he said with a knowing smile, “I know no matter what I tell you you’re not going to listen.”
Berger contributed tips for making Passover preparations easier: Involve the children as much as possible, stay focused on one task at a time, keep a list of accomplishments in addition to a to-do list, use a timer to stay on track with tasks, and take relaxing and regular breaks.
Give yourself an emotional break, too, he suggested. Useful therapies include asking for help, taking alone time, laughing, breathing, drawing, listening to music, meditation, Torah study and prayer, managing expectations of family members, and — if worse comes to worst — punching a pillow.
Don’t expect to make everyone happy, and remember “there’s no obligation to be perfect.” Getting the home up to snuff is only one facet of Passover preparation; one needs to prepare mentally and spiritually, keeping in mind the mitzvah of the holiday. After all, reads an important bullet point on Berger’s handout, “Our ancestors were trying to make bread and came out with matzoh.”