People have been going away for Passover since the beginning of time.
In fact, the origin of the word Passover, though thought to have been because God “passed over” the houses of the Jews, was really because they had “Do not disturb” signs on the doors. You might have heard otherwise, something about blood on the doorposts. All rumors. Totally fake news.
A group of women were fed up with the heat in the desert and they just did not want to make Passover. The sand gets all over the place and it isn’t so easy to clean up. One kid spills his mushed-up crackers and the process starts all over again. That is why people go away for Passover. And it started, coincidentally, while we were in Egypt.
When it comes to going away for this spring time holiday, it is usually divided into the haves and have-nots. Or the “I have really good in-laws or parents who take me away” or the “I do not have anyone who can afford to take me away.” Though there is something very nice about staying home.
Even when my parents could afford it, it was hard for my grandparents to go away, so we would make Passover at home, and those memories have stayed with me always. In fact, making charoset with my grandfather was so special, that we use the same chopper all these years later, when my dad makes charoset with my boys. When my maternal grandparents passed away, we started going to the Concord Hotel with my paternal grandparents. In order to make that special, we would get our own room for our seder, and friends from Fair Lawn would join us. Those were always the most fun.
Nowadays, there are Passover programs all over the world. Italy, Mexico, Arizona — you name it and there is someone complaining about all of the packing they have to do before they get there. And then there are those of us who stay home because we either a., aren’t invited to go away; b., cannot afford to go away; or c., really love staying home. But this column isn’t going to discuss those people. This column is going to discuss those people who usually go away every single year and this year they are not.
This year, when people ask them if they are going back to Florida, they have to reply, “No, we are (gasp) home this year.” The culprit? The dreaded Zika virus. A few months ago, the governor of Florida announced that there were mosquitoes carrying the Zika virus flying loose in Florida. This caused quite a stir, because many of the most successful Passover programs are in Florida. Many women who attend those programs are in their prime child-bearing years. Many grandmothers and mothers of those women, who are in their child-bearing years, were afraid to put their future great-grandchildren and grandchildren at risk. So they are making the ultimate sacrifice. They are (gasp) staying home for the Passover holiday. Some, for the first time ever.
For those of us who have staying home down to a science — what to buy when, when to start cooking, how to kasher our kitchens in under an hour, how to pretend to be excited for all of those people on Facebook who are posting pictures of the outfits they are taking with them — we don’t really feel sorry for you. Because these are the same people who, when they are redoing their kitchen, they don’t put in a Passover kitchen because “I am never going to make Passover.”
Hey lady, things happen. Nothing is in our control. This too shall pass. It is only a week.
I have been on both sides of this conversation. I have been away and I have stayed home. This year, I am fortunate not to have to make Passover. Hopefully, I will be with my parents and my brother and his family for the first days, and for chol hamoed and the second days, I am speaking at a hotel in the Catskills. Honestly, I feel guilty every time I walk into the supermarket and am not buying things for the holiday. I even have called some friends who are staying home to see if I can buy things for them. That is how guilty I feel. But for those who are stranded by Zika — I think you will be okay. And the ban has been lifted by the governor, so, God willing, you will be back in your hotels next year, and this all will be just a bad memory.
Wishing everyone a happy and healthy Passover, filled with good health, good food, and most importantly, good memories to last a lifetime!
Banji Ganchrow of Teaneck is hoping that she won’t pass out when she speaks. And if she does, she hopes that someone will catch her and that no one is filming it.