I pass through a local kosher grocery store virtually every day. I find it strange that the obsessive adherence to the laws and rituals of Pesach observance have brought upon us a tsunami of specialized foods and sweets that virtually deprive us of nothing during those eight days. I always saw Pesach as a week of some small deprivations, such as there once were before the food industry found a huge luxury niche in supplying everything we simply do not need. The aisles of each kosher grocery as well as the supermarkets are not only charging big prices for all the new and better substitutions, but are making it an easy affair to feed the entire Third World with its specialty items. We could certainly find a better place for our money than spending it on elaborate Pesach items – a more worthy cause than self-gratification and OCD.
We are after all, allegedly celebrating freedom from slavery. We are narrating the Exodus from Egypt into Palestine. We are trudging through a desert with unleavened bread. So how then, can we justify so much excess and expenditure on Pesach? Most of us survived quite well on the “deprivations” of our childhoods, where there wasn’t all that much to choose from in what we could eat. We lived with the matzoh, and matzoh cereal and chocolate covered matzoh, and the tasteless one-and-only Bartons’ macaroons of our time. No pasta. No mixes. No specialty foods. And we survived.
Ordering special medical preparations? Kosher-for-Pesach make-up? No one considered the lack of certain products as so terrible. In fact, there was in itself something pleasant about the lack of choices. We did not blowtorch our drains or buy new carpeting two weeks before Pesach. We followed the laws and the rituals as we could, and did not obsess over how much more was demanded through newer interpretations of the minutiae of ritual. It was our redemption from slavery of one kind, and not slavery to a newer and more stringent one of rules and regulations.
Most of our lives become more complex and more costly annually, and somewhere our holiday of deliverance has become exaggerated out of proportion by this obsessive need to spend, buy, and demonstrate our religiosity and complete adherence to every nuance of ritual to an abnormal degree.