When you think about it, the holiday of Passover is a truly a unique time for the Jews. We are celebrating and commemorating our freedom from slavery. Our escape from an evil empire. There is an entire book dedicated to telling the story. The Hagaddah. It is the only book, I think — and don’t quote me because I totally don’t know what I am talking about — that has a song just for the youngest child to sing. The manishtana. It is a book that religious and non-religious Jews alike read together. The seders are like Thanksgiving for some Jews; everybody gets together for a really big meal. Some of these families want to be together and want to see each other and others, well, don’t and don’t.
And for the Orthodox Jews, and possibly some others as well, even though it is a holiday celebrating the release from slavery, we are enslaved to clean the entire house from top to bottom and use a whole new set of dishes, utensils, pots, pans, glasses, and food, for that matter. I am not sure how that makes any sense at all, but it has been going on for thousands of years, so I guess it just stuck. No rabbi is finding a way around that one. Matzah is matzah and bread just isn’t.
Over the holiday, I was trying to see if I could find the history of going away for Passover. That has become a true money-making proposition for those in the business. For those of you who don’t know about the whole “going away for Passover” deal, allow me to explain it to you. (Though, I must say that I think that going to a hotel for Passover came from a rebbetzin in some teeny-tiny village off the beaten path in Yemensvelt who complained to her rosh-yeshiva husband that in between the 17 kids, three part- time jobs, and a shaital machar business, she isn’t going to have time to kasher the house for Pesach.
And since he is the chief rabbi of Yemensvelt, he certainly can’t help. So he sent a telegram to his friend who owned a hotel and owed him a favor for a bris he performed when the actual mohel got caught in a snowstorm. His friend replied back, “For you, my chaver, for you, my dear friend Velvel — for you I will make my hotel kosher for Passover so you and your wife and your 17 children could be away and relax and not have to worry about a thing!”
Well, when word got out in the village that there was going to be a hotel that was going to be kosher for Passover, they were all going crazy! Any relative Velvel had was crawling out of the woodwork to ask if he could get a deal. “My vife ees good wit de kinderlach. Maybe she runs camp?” Ahh and the first barter for service was born….
When my mom’s parents were alive, we had Passover together in our house and it was really special. They died pretty young, and after that, we would go with my dad’s parents to the Concord every other year. The other year, we went without them to the Concord. The food at the Concord was the best. Was it actually kosher for Pesach? No one is really sure. But there have been some really frum hotels that we have been at that served ice cream that was definitely not parve. But it was really really good and totally worth it to eat it right after a steak…
My point is this. No one messes with Passover. No one gets a rabbi to say, “Naa, matzah isn’t going to work for you this year. Just buy a pizza and eat it in the closet.” It’s just not happening. But the invention of the Hotel for Passover is a totally different thing. Now that is people celebrating their freedom! Eating breakfast and then tea room and then lunch and then barbecue and then Chinese food and then dinner and then more tea room.
You’re away from home, so you don’t have to worry about how clean the inside of your oven got or which of your kids’ friends will still insist on bringing Oreos over in his pocket, for you to find all over the carpet. (True story, but not mine.) You are on vacation from food shopping at ridiculously hiked up prices — ridiculous!!! You are on vacation from your kids, because these programs have the best day camps — and even if they aren’t, what could really happen to your kid in a seven-hour day? (I am kidding. Everyone is vetted, more or less…)
So there you have it. Going away for Pesach was originally from the great rabbis of Yemensvelt, and for those who can afford to go away or are related to someone who can afford to take you away, just know that you have the blessings of all of these shtark rebbes who came before you.
Banji Ganchrow of Teaneck was very upset when she saw her pool was replaced by a swing set and then when she went to 1 p.m. lunch, there was no table or lunch…. Oh well….