Yes – we read this week about Aaron and the priests making expiation for the transgressions of the Israelites. That involves a couple of goats, a bit of cleansing blood and a whole lot of washing. One of the goats comes before Aaron, he lays his hands on it, confesses the transgressions and sends it out to the wilderness, getting rid of the people’s iniquities. Then, Aaron is supposed to bathe and do his laundry, the usual recipe for making the difference between being in a state of “tamei” and “tahor”…unclean and clean.
Which brings us to Passover. Washing? Clean and unclean? Yes, that’s Passover all right.
I’m not exactly making expiation for transgressions, unless we’re talking about how rotten a housekeeper I am. True. And for that, I pay and pay. I admit it, every Passover, as I alternately praise and curse the holiday that brings me face to face with my shortcomings.
On the other hand, I love Passover. I love having the full table, the food, my Mom’s tzimmis, my grandmother’s Passover muffins.
I think this is where Leviticus and Passover overlap. Leviticus is ritual, planned actions, distinguishing between lines, where tamei and tahor come up against each other. The goat is sent off to the wilderness, like I send the regular dishes off to the garage, not because they’re “dirty” but because it’s not their time to be used. I am making a distinction. The special, unique, Passover dishes come out around now like the new spring flowers (finally!).
Passover officially begins with my grandmother’s pot and ladle with the little pieces of red tape that indicated “meat”. They were used once a year, for one week, for fifty years. When I lift that pot out of the box that’s been brought upstairs, a line has been crossed and the special time has begun.
Torah does not prefer a life without distinctions. Passover is a time of distinctions. Clean and unclean. Fifty one weeks and one week. Regular dishes and the ones in the box. The state of my house the rest of the year doesn’t bother me for that one week, and so Passover remains one of my favorite times.
I have to get back to cleaning. . I hope you have something really special that you only use during Passover. If you don’t, start this year. Wishing you a sweet Passover.