The leftovers are in the fridge, the matzah is growing tiresome, and the haggadot have been put away for next year. So why do we need six more days of Pesah?
This holiday is something of an endurance test, and not just for your gastro-intestinal tract. Pesah is a challenge: eight days of limiting yourself to a hametz-free existence, and if you have family origins in Eastern Europe, it is even more limited than that. (We Ashkenazi vegetarians are particularly hard up during Pesah - without soy, mealtimes are particularly meager, although the recent availability of quinoa, which is acceptable for Pesah, has proven to be a real blessing.) This is about mind over matter, about conquering the stomach’s dominion over your life.
And there is no question that doing so every once in a while is good for you. Our 24/7 culture with its constant availability of all sorts of food, much of it unhealthy, rarely forces us to think twice about what we are putting into our bodies. But Pesah upends the food equation; for eight days of the year, I have to rethink my dietary choices, to refocus my relationship with food.
Although we spend the first two nights of Pesah recalling our journey from slavery to freedom, from the physical distress of Mitzrayim (Egypt) to the spiritual satisfaction of receiving the Torah and claiming God’s Promised Land, the remainder of the festival is about the discipline that freedom warrants. So before you hoist that matzah sandwich to your mouth, or test the edibility of that kosher-for-Passover “cookie,” try to remember that setting limits builds strength of character. And maybe some fresh fruits and vegetables would be better for you, anyway. Hag sameah!
Rabbi Seth Adelson
(Originally published in the Temple Israel Voice, 3/28/13.)