Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Guest Blog: Passover as a Convert

By Ani Lipitz
Ani lives in Brooklyn with her husband and two fat goldfish. By day, she's a career counselor at a university in Manhattan. After 5pm (or on a slow day at work), she can usually be found writing, performing culinary experimentation, and trying to decipher the secrets of the universe as presented through the teachings of Chassidus.

Every Pesach now, I celebrate not only my people’s past and future redemption, but the redemption of my own soul.

Guest Blog: Passover as a Convert

“So, uh, when’s the lunar mission launching?”
My cousin stands in the entrance to my tiny kitchen, surveying the tinfoil-covered landscape with a raised eyebrow.
“Don’t come in here!!!” I shriek, leaping up from wrapping another layer of foil around the table legs to tackle her away from my precious chametz-free kitchen. “What did you have for breakfast?!”
What did you have for breakfast?!”
“Uh… um… some eggs?” she stammers, clearly frightened for my sanity and her life.
“Any toast?!”
“Don’t lie to me!”
“I d-didn’t eat toast!”
I stare at her for a good, hard second, then, satisfied she’s telling the truth, breathe a sigh of relief. “Okay. Good.” I leave her huddled on the couch as I return to my aluminum wrapping.  “Sorry for the outburst,” I call casually. “Did you bring the goods?”

I hear a plastic bag rustling. “Can I come in there?” she asks timidly.
“Yes,” I say, “You’re cleared for entry.”
She re-appears in the kitchen doorway and holds out the shopping bag. “They all have the ‘U’ with a circle around it and a ‘P’ next to it.”
I take the cans of tuna out of the bag to confirm their kosher-for-Pesach status. “Excellent,” I say. “Thank you.”
“Um,” she says. “I have a question. Why does Rosie need to eat just tuna during Passover? Why can’t she eat regular cat food?”
“Because regular cat food is chametz,” I reply, shuddering at the word. “And during Passover, we eradicate all chametz from our lives.”
“What’s kamits?” she asks. “I thought Jews just don’t eat bread during Passover.”
I roll my eyes. Typical. “Pretty much anything made from or processed with grain we don’t eat or have in our houses.”
“Oh,” she says. She looks around. “Where is Rosie, anyway?”
“Hiding somewhere,” I say. “I sprayed her down in the shower earlier to make sure she didn’t have any crumbs of anything on her.”
“Wow,” she shifts uncomfortably. “Don’t you think you’re getting a little, uh, intense about all this?”
I sigh, rolling my eyes again. “You wouldn’t understand,” I tell her, exasperated. “You’re not Jewish.”
“Well,” she says, “neither are you.”


It was true. All the foil-wrapping, cat-showering, cousin-tackling, frantic-Rav-calling craziness was just chinuch, part of my pre-conversion education. But this was my first Pesach, and darn it if I wasn’t going to be the frummest and most machmir not-quite-Jew in all of Binghamton, New York!

I didn’t bother explaining to my cousin the whole concept of a convert actually being Jewish all along, but needing the conversion process to reveal that fact. I did, however, take the opportunity to glare scathingly at her and resume wrapping my table legs.
“All right,” she takes a step back. “I guess I’m gonna get going.”
“Thanks for the tuna,” I tell her.
“No problem,” she replies. “Have a happy Passover.”
“I’d rather have a kosher Passover,” I mumble as she heads out the door, slamming it shut at the last second to prevent a damp and traumatized Rosie from bolting after her to freedom.  


I’m glad to report that my first Pesach did indeed go off without a halachic hitch. My apartment was probably more Pesachdik than even the local Chabad House, and Rosie eventually forgave me for the shower when she realized she was getting to eat tuna for an entire week.

But I’m even gladder to report that now, in the midst of my third Pesach as an “official” Jew, my Passover experience has become just as happy as it is kosher. Granted, I still might break down and weep bitterly during Pesach cleaning, but that’s usually less about the stress of kashering and more about my pain at the thought of living without bagels for eight days.

Going chametz-free no longer feels like slave labor; it’s become part of the process of my personal exodus from Egypt. Every Pesach now, I celebrate not only my people’s past and future redemptions (may it be immediately!), but the redemption of my own soul. It was 21 years of bitter exile she suffered before G-d finally reached out with a strong arm and reminded her who she really is – a piece of Him, literally. And although I try my best to live with this knowledge every day, it’s during Pesach that I feel the strongest connection to my G-dly self.

Chassidus teaches us that this time of year, G-d’s infinite, unconditional love is pouring down on us, and all we have to do is work to clear ourselves of our personal chametz, our ego-based habits and thought patterns, in order to receive and internalize it. So even though we’re starting to count down the hours until that glorious, post-Pesach slice of pizza, take a moment to revel in the opportunity you’re being given to connect with G-d and with your own soul.

Take a moment to revel in the fact that you are a Jew.

1 LadyMama voices:

Fashion-isha said... [Reply to comment]

Hey Mimi,
It's been a while since I've been here. Your posts are looking fabulous. I love the flower idea one and this interview is great!!