ICEJ Homecare Shares Special Moments during Pesach

By: Corrie Van Maanen

Everyone seems to be on the move in Israel as Passover (Pesach, in Hebrew) approaches! An enormous rush almost makes you believe everyone is on the same journey together. To prepare for Pesach, every family must thoroughly clean their house—not a crumb of bread may be left behind.

Every year, I am amazed at how it affects me, too, especially as the Seder meal nears on the eve of Passover. Daily life here is becoming more expensive, yet people still buy in abundance, packing their grocery store carts. What makes the Seder night so different?

Pesach is a time set aside to remember the miracles God has done. And even amid this busy holiday, the weekly visits by ICEJ Homecare continued as usual.

Rosa* had just come home from a visit to the doctor and received a troubling diagnosis. She was not ready to talk about it yet—the news was too heavy. She also still misses her sister, whom she had lived with until her sister’s death more than six years ago. Rosa was happy to see me—a welcomed distraction.

I put my Pesach present on the kitchen table—a supermarket coupon for something extra and a nice card I had written that said: “To celebrate Passover is to remember the joy of the redemption that the God of Israel gave in a dark time of Jewish history. May it give us faith to trust Him in our situation.” The card could serve as a bookmark. Rosa immediately picked up her book of Psalms and said, “This bookmark must go with my favorite Psalm.”

Her book of Psalms was full of notes. Rosa stopped at Psalm 23. She read it in Russian, put the bookmark between the pages, closed the book, kissed the cover, and was visibly happy with the small gift.

We sat together at the kitchen table, and when I asked Rosa if she used to celebrate Passover with her parents, it was as if the sun had started to shine.

“We lived in Belarus,” she began. “We celebrated the Seder in secret, with six people around the table. Not only Jews, but we also had a friendship with Christians.”

She emphasized again, with great seriousness, that it was all in secrecy as if she still felt the tension that came with it.

“But before that, our house was thoroughly cleaned,” Rosa continued. “The cutlery and crockery went to the shed in the garden, and the Pesach crockery appeared. No yeast was allowed to remain in the house. On the day Pesach started, our grandfather came, and he baked the matzot himself—a lot—and he distributed it.”

I asked Rosa who made the holes in the matzah.

“It was me,” she beamed, proudly patting her chest. “I had to shower and put on a clean dress, and then Grandpa gave me the wheel. He had taken the wheel from an old clock and cleaned it, put a stick through it, and I used it to drive the holes in the matzah,” she said with passion as she made a rolling motion.

“Father went to the synagogue before Seder night. No one knew it was a synagogue, but there was a minyan who gathered and recited the prayers. He had to walk several miles to get there. We were all together, an evening full of stories.”

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