One Man’s Opinion

By Eugen Schoenfeld

Eugen Schoenfeld Atlanta Jewish Times

Eugen Schoenfeld

No single holiday in the Jewish calendar requires so much preparation as does Passover. In my youth, all house improvement, especially interior and exterior house painting, was reserved to be done before Passover. What a commotion we experienced in those early spring days — the weeks before Passover. What I hated most is that even though the days before Pesach were still cold, we followed customs and stopped building fires in the pripitchek, the floor-to-ceiling stove that was constructed from bricks and covered with shiny tiles. The only place that was comfortably warm was the kitchen, but of course there was always daily cooking going on and never room enough to lounge in it.

The task of preparation was enormous. All the cabinets and drawers, especially those in the kitchen, were taken outside and thoroughly scrubbed. The most effort was extended to the bread drawer.

It was my task to take out all our clothes and hang them on a sturdy line stretched between two plum trees. The pockets of all garments were turned inside out, and, using a sturdy brush, I brushed away the accumulated lint with any chametz — the accidental bread crumbs or candy that could have been left in the pockets. Without this task, our whole house could have been contaminated, and we would have violated the commandment of eliminating all leaven from the house.

As the holiday approached, more and more of our home was made pesadik (kosher for Passover). Proper space had to be made to store the hand-baked matzot and the many eggs that Mother had, with great time and effort, bought dozen by dozen from the peasant women who brought them to the market.

Finally, the most difficult part in which I had an important task was to climb to the attic and retrieve the pesadik dishes and to store and remove the everyday utensils and carry them to the basement, where, according to custom and law, they were ritually sold.

There are many aspects to this holiday. It is the holiday of freedom, of redemption. It is also the month of Nisan, the first month of the year. Let us not forget that Pesach is also the holiday of spring and of spiritual renewal.

Jews in the past, at least in my part of the world, symbolically celebrated this renewal by wearing some new articles of clothes. All of us donned new shirts or shoes or hats, but above all was the display of a new suit or, for my mother and sister, new dresses. A new suit had an additional attribute: It was an important status symbol.

On the first day of Passover as we put on the new clothes, we children displayed ourselves to our parents, and they in turn did so to us. We wished one another in Hebrew titchadesh — may you be renewed — and we gave a second wish in Yiddish, tzerass it gesunderheit — may you live to wear out these clothes in good health.

This last custom has since childhood brought in me a tragic-sentimental emotion. Even today I cannot think of Passover without recalling and re-experiencing the great impact that a brief story had and continues to have on me as Passover approaches.

This story, written by Yaakov Fichman and titled “Titchadesh,” tells the emotional state of the young son of a poor tailor who never experienced having new clothes and hence never having anyone wish him the blessing of titchadesh. Occasionally his father made him something to wear, but each time the item was made from old clothes that the tailor’s customers discarded when they donned their new garments.

Each Passover this poor little son yearned that he too could wear something new and hear others wish him the blessing of titchadesh, of being renewed. Alas, his father could never afford to give him what all other Jewish boys had on Passover — something new and with it the blessing for a healthy renewal.

Poor and sick with consumption, my little hero died. As he was ascending to heaven wrapped in his new shrouds, the angels who accompanied him kept on wishing him titchadesh, titchadesh.

I would like at this time to wish all the readers of this paper the blessing of titchadesh. May all of you experience on this wondrous and joyful holiday the blessing of physical and spiritual renewal: Titchadshu, titchadshu.