According to the wisdom of Tevye the milkman, as espoused in the film Fiddler on the Roof, “It’s no shame to be poor … but it’s no great honour, either.” Nevertheless, affluence has its own set of challenges. That’s the case when it comes to Passover nowadays. Much has changed since the time when our grandparents or great-grandparents in the old country lived in small, modest homes. Back then, cleaning one or two sparsely furnished rooms and removing the hametz from them could be done quickly and easily.
Today, the typical Canadian house is many times larger. It is likely no different than the average American home, which, according to professional organizer Regina Lark, has 300,000 objects in it. That makes for a lot of space to cover and items to deal with, while scrubbing and scouring your residence and purging it of hametz.
The food situation is also greatly different than it was just a few decades ago. The typical Pesach menu once consisted of whatever could be made of matzah, eggs, onions and potatoes. Today, one can find hundreds of kosher for Passover products, from almond butter to zebra cookies and everything in between. Many a balabusta feel compelled to spend weeks in the kitchen, cooking up all kinds of gourmet holiday delicacies.
All of this extra pressure in recent years has led to a great debate – should we stay home for Pesach, or go to a resort? The latter option, for anyone who has the financial means, would seem to be a no-brainer, as it allows people to avoid the stress of cleaning and “turning over” their kitchens. Then, there is the freedom of not having to cook, serve and clean up after meals. What better way to enjoy the holiday of liberation than an exodus from the kitchen?
On top of it all, the typical Passover hotel program provides endless food, activities and entertainment for every age group. It makes for a wonderful vacation.
There are those who argue, however, that when it comes to Passover, there’s no place like home. They insist that it’s important for the children to witness – and participate in – the hard work that goes into preparing for the holiday. It makes the celebration of it that much more meaningful. Also, having a seder in the comfort and relaxed atmosphere of your own dining room, they say, is more conducive to creating the heimish (homey), family-centred environment that can’t be recreated in a banquet hall surrounded by hundreds of strangers.
Some rabbis caution people about going away, since not every person who takes over a hotel for Passover is knowledgeable when it comes to the holiday’s intricate kosher laws. Anything gained on the material level may be lost on the spiritual plain. And then, there are the horror stories. I know of a family who was stranded at a Mexican resort when the program they were attending ran out of food and the organizers disappeared. What a nightmare at any time, let alone on Passover, when there’s almost nothing that can be done about it.
The decision of whether or not to go away for Passover shouldn’t be grounded in emotion. Everyone has to make such a choice based on what makes the most sense for them. Having a holiday in a place that is meaningful, memorable and enjoyable should be the determining factor.