Unequipped for Pesach Prep


    A woman asks for suggestions on how to deal with a disability that now makes it impossible to complete her usual pre-Passover cleaning and cooking rituals. 


    Dear Miriam,

    I have always strictly prepared for Pesach, but this year I am disabled. As much as I would like to scrub away the chametz, I cannot. I have an aid and a husband at home, but if my husband does as much as pull out the dishes, I'll be surprised. My aid is very nice, but she will remind me that preparing for Passover is not in her job description, and she is correct.  I have already ordered most of the seder meal from a kosher caterer. I know my husband's attitude is that my health is what I should be concerned about, but the translation is, "do not depend on him." Should I consider myself lucky if he just follows my shopping list? What suggestions do you have? 

    Unequipped for Pesach Prep 

    Dear Prep,

    I'm sorry to hear you're having a difficult time around such a joyous holiday. For a holiday that is fundamentally about liberation, Passover can be a huge source of stress to families regardless of their physical abilities or limitations, and your letter is a good reminder to keep things in perspective. Yes, cooking and cleaning are central to the holiday, but so is spending time with family in a respectful and harmonious way.

    Implicit in your letter is disappointment in your husband, and I'm sure that's hard for you to feel on top of your disappointment in not being able to do your usual level of preparation for yourself. I do, in fact, think you should consider yourself lucky, but not in the way you imply. You are fortunate to have a husband who is concerned about your health and who wants you to take care of yourself. He values your health more than a set of rituals. While that is a complicated view in light of the extreme number of rituals surrounding Passover, he's actually right that your health comes first. Jewish law dictates that prioritization through the concept of pikuach nefesh (saving a life). While I may be taking an especially liberal approach to apply that to your case, I'm going to stand behind it. If preparing for Passover is not possible given your physical limitations, then preparing for Passover is not possible given your physical limitations.

    That being said, you may have more options than you're currently considering. You've already gotten food catered, which is great. If you have some more money to put toward the preparation, you can hire cleaners, or people to shop for you, or people to do pretty much anything you want. You may be able to give your aid extra money to help with very specific tasks, too. If none of this is appealing, perhaps you have family or friends who would be willing to help you for a number of hours in exchange for some kosher for Passover food that's arriving from the caterer or just because it's a real mitzvah to help someone be able to celebrate a holiday.

    Beyond the cooking and cleaning bit (no small thing, I know), I would encourage you to focus on the family piece. Find a time to sit down with your husband and explain to him how hard the holiday is for you this year. Explain to him that you want nothing more than to be able to do your usual level of preparation, and you're so frustrated by not being able to. Discuss how you can help each other have a satisfactory holiday experience both for yourselves as individuals and as a couple. He may need to accept that for you to be happy, he has to do more cleaning than he would prefer to do. You may need to accept that the matzah balls won't taste the same as when you make them yourself. You may both need to accept that to live together happily, you need to make compromises, if not globally, than at least this year, at least for Passover. 

    Be well,