Passover Prep: A Cautionary Tale
Closing ThoughtsPassover

Passover Prep: A Cautionary Tale

Chana Shapiro reminisces about Passover prepping as a newlywed.

Chana Shapiro is an educator, writer, editor and illustrator whose work has appeared in journals, newspapers and magazines. She is a regular contributor to the AJT.

As newlyweds, Zvi and I moved into a one-bedroom apartment in the Bronx. The place was small; however, it had a long, wide entrance hall. There was plenty of room for three end-to-end folding tables. We were able to invite — and seat — Zvi’s entire New York family and a few friends at a seder at our place. Not only was it our first big gathering, but it was the first time either of us had been responsible for preparing and leading our own seder.

Even though I was a first-year teacher and did everything in my power to come to work no matter what, I decided to use three of my five “personal” days to clean, shop and cook for Pesach. For three days, from sunrise to well past midnight, while Zvi did the heavy lifting (he actually took the stove apart, in order to clean it!) and studied the haggadah to make the seders authentic and fun, I shopped, mopped, swept, scrubbed, laundered and dusted. Then I chopped, mixed, broiled, roasted, fried and baked.

On the evening of the second prep day, when Zvi and I did the final search for chametz, we were proud that our place was pristine and welcoming.  On the day of the seder, I worked hard to make sure the food was outstanding, the seder plate was perfect and the table setting was beautiful. I even washed a couple of windows.

It was sundown at last! It was chilly that year, and Zvi laid our guests’ coats carefully on our bed. After a few minutes of amiable chatting, we took our seats.  Zvi sat at the head, and we read our haggadot together. When the appropriate time came, everyone was more than ready for the festive meal, and Zvi and I served my homemade soup. I don’t remember what happened after that.

I woke up the next day at two in the afternoon.

Once the soup had been served, I went into the bedroom to change my shoes. Apparently, I collapsed and fell onto the bed, on top of the coats. At first, folks assumed I was in the bathroom, but after the soup bowls had been cleared and the meal was about to progress, people began to worry. What had happened to me? Should Zvi manage the rest of the meal? Volunteers went into the kitchen to assess the situation and Zvi looked for me.

He found me sound asleep, shoeless, sprawled (unattractively) on top of the coats. What should he do? My compassionate husband tiptoed out of the room and assumed full responsiblity as official host as well as seder leader.

Zvi needn’t have worried about waking me.  After the seder ended and guests helped to put everything away and tidied the place, they headed to the bedroom to retrieve their coats. I was told that, at first, an attempt was made to gently roll me off each garment, one at a time, but it became clear that I was impervious to jostling, pulling or pushing. Two dozen coats were removed from under me, while I remained peacefully in dreamland.

I succeeded in making up for all the hours devoted to seder preparation, managing to sleep non-stop for almost 16 hours. When I woke up, I was startled to see daylight streaming in the window.  I leapt out of bed and found my husband calmly reading in his favorite chair. He seemed to be in a pretty good mood, considering that I had been absent for half of our Bronx voyage into and out of Egypt.

“Have a nice rest?” he asked.

“Why did you let me sleep?” I shouted. “I’m totally humiliated! I’ll never live this down! Now your family hates me, and our friends think I’m weak and pitiful!”

“The food was delicious, people said they loved the seder, and everybody knows you knocked yourself out!”

And that’s the truth. I sure did. Lesson learned.

Zvi and I have hosted scores of Pesach seders since then. A guest occasionally dozes off during the experience, but I’ve never again missed singing every verse of “Chad Gadya” … with gusto.

Our family wishes each of you a liberating and joyful Pesach. Chag Kasher v’Sameach!

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