Keeping our focus during the Pre-Pesach Rush
By Aliza Swift
“Here we go again…” thought Shuli, as she bent down to clean the large amount of “stuff” that had accumulated under the children’s beds since last Pesach. Remembering the reproachful look that her English teacher had always given her when she used the word “stuff”, Shuli automatically tried to conjure up another word for the various objects she was fishing out. But how do you describe the broken crayons, missing shoe (Hey! I thought we left this one at the park!), pretzel crumbs, candy wrappers, and other long forgotten items in one succinct word? Settling on “stuff” while tying the already full garbage bag, she decided that she didn’t really care much about English now anyways. On second thought, she didn’t really care about anything now except for checking off the tasks from her mile long “to do” list.
“How did this get here?” Shuli wondered as she brushed off the dust from a worn blue notebook. Flipping through the pages, memories began to flood her mind as she was transferred to a different time and place… Did seminary girls celebrate a different Pesach? They must – because the seminary Pesach she remembered was filled with inspirational classes and moving experiences. One highlighted sentence seemed to jump out at her from between the neat handwritten lines… “How did Miriam and the other women have musical instruments to play after G-d redeemed them from Egypt?”
“Did I pack Yehudah’s sleeping mat?” Temima thought, as she kneaded the dough that was rising on the table. A little bit of this and some of that went into the large stone bowl as her experienced hands deftly turned the ingredients into pliable dough. Hearing shouting coming from the back of the family’s small hut, Temima immediately left her dough and went to see what the cause of the commotion was.
“Yechiel, you should know better than that!” scolded Temima as she saw her five-year-old son dumping the contents of the bulging bag. “I’ve packed that bag at least five times today, why do you children insist on undoing my work?”
“I’m sorry, Mommy,” apologized the contrite looking Yechiel. “I was just looking for my stones.”
“Okay, but please leave everything packed. We don’t know exactly when we are leaving, and I don’t want anything to be left behind.”
Before she was even out of the room Temima was already back to her mental “to-do” list. “Wash the children’s robes, bake more bread, scrub and pack the cooking ware…Will this work never end?”
“Mommmmmmmmy do you know where my jump rope is….?”
Shuli, abruptly awakened from her reverie, looked up in time to see her six-year-old daughter whining about something or another while munching a cookie (gasp!) in the nearly-cleaned-for-Pesach room.
“Adina, why are you eating that in here!? Do you realize how many hours I spent cleaning this room? Now what do you need?”
“I just wanted my jump rope and I didn’t know that you cleaned the room already.”
“Fine, I think that I saw it on the kitchen table. Now please go out to play, so that I can finish up in here.”
“Finish up in here?” Shuli mused to herself. “Is such a thing possible in this jungle? Now which drawer was I up to?”
“Who can that be at this late hour,” wondered Temima as she walked to the door, her sandaled feet tapping lightly against the straw floor.
“Miriam, what a nice surprise, please come in.” Temima warmly welcomed her friend into her home.
As Temima quickly went to the hearth to prepare tea, she couldn’t help but feel honored that the righteous Miriam ben Amram, her good friend and neighbor, had come to pay her a visit during such a hectic time. Even without the rumors and the fact that she was the sister of Moshe Rabbeinu, she knew of her friend’s greatness from her many daily encounters with her.
“Dear Temima, please don’t go through the trouble to prepare anything on my behalf, I haven’t much time to stay.”
Temima smiled to herself as she brought two steaming mugs to the table. It was so like Miriam to say that. She was always doing something for someone else, she never took for herself.
“Tell me my friend, did you finish your packing? Your hut looks like you are ready to leave as soon as our great teacher, Moshe, issues the command.”
“Yes, I am basically finished, although I wasn’t sure if I should pack the winter blankets. Do you think that we will need these in our new home?”
“I am sure that we will not suffer from cold in our new home,” smiled Miriam gently. “What did you do with your musical instruments?”
“My instruments?” repeated a shocked Temima. “Of course I planned on leaving them here. What use would I have for music in the desert?”
“I understand that our packing space is limited, but it is imperative that every woman in our nation take her instruments along. Imagine how much nicer our songs of praise will be to the Almighty G-d, when we have instruments to accompany our joyful voices.”
“Miriam, you are one of a kind.”
“Of course I am and so are you. Each woman in our nation is unique and that is why every one of us must be ready to sing praises to our G-d. Now Temima, I must go and pass this message to all of our sisters.”
“Remember,” said Miriam, as she lovingly embraced Temima, “It is only in the merit of us women that we will deserve to be redeemed. Especially during these hectic times, we have to stay focused on what’s truly important.”
Bright and early the next day as Shuli padded down the hall, she remembered to look out the window at the shining sun and reflect on all the goodness that G-d has showered upon her before waking her children. Despite the usual pressured frenzy, Shuli felt content and energized to face the day. As she scrubbed the kitchen cabinets, Shuli realized that it wasn’t the tasks that had changed, but her attitude. After all, no matter the generation, the task of the Jewish women is constant – to take the physical and elevate it into a unique song to the Creator of the world.
“Thank you Miriam and you too Temima,” whispered Shuli with a smile. And as she picked up her rag, Shuli seemed to hear the soft chiming of a tambourine.