A new sky and a new country / Morocco
I am just sitting here, in my new home, thinking about Passover that is coming, the sons of the new generation, who only partially keep the festival, sometimes hametz and matza together, when there are more kneidelach than there are Haggadahs.
Specifically because of this I see before me the traditional Moroccan household.
The excited gathering of the family, the table laid opened to its whole length, covered with a huge white tablecloth, splendid utensils when the light dances and glitters on them, the poetic-celebratory act, the aromas of the cooking fill every corner in the home. And in the same long breath, the days preceding the festival accompany us, that pass in insanity, of preparations that have no end. These preparations are “a crescendo” that comes to its peak: on the festival in all its glory.
We shop without thought, carry out an examination of the quality of the markets, carry home a serious weight and almost impossible storage (even under the table and beds), quantities of food that require never-ending hours of cooking and almost military planning. And mother conducts it all, with accurate coordination, organization of the time and distribution of the work. Between cooking and laundry, she spreads out in the sun the feathers from the blankets. Between whitewashing the ceilings and the walls we also paint the cracks in the floor tiles and throw almost a never-ending amount of water on the shutters and windows.
And at long last the important day of the eve of Passover arrives. At the same time the work reaches its peak. The utensils are rinsed quickly and placed in piles on the floor, on the table and on the windows – to dry. Later they are all packed in chests that are taken upstairs. There am I, on the ladder, taking down the sacred dishes – one dish after another very carefully. They take them from me with respect and slowly but surely take them downstairs and give them to mother.
And when father says – “we need to check the hametz”, he lights a candle, gives me a special spoon, and himself, in one hand holding a white feather and in the other the candle, and we check...father goes to the window and finds some...and to the second window and finds some more. I laugh to myself, but I remain silent – they will also laugh once a year.
On the 14th of Nissan, after we have kept the commandment of checking the hametz (the crumbs were wrapped in a cloth together with the wax candle and tied up so that no mouse will find it and scatter the crumbs). Everything was already ready for the meal. At that early time we separated from the hametz for eight days.
Everything changed on that same day: a new sky and a new country. Father comes back from synagogue. Mother is wearing her festival clothes. Adorned like a queen and waiting for the king. The table is laid beautifully and everything is sparkling from the cleaning and scrubbing.
The family gathers. Thousands of kisses, as is customary.
And when everyone is sitting excitedly – we eat, drink, pray, and tell of the exodus from Egypt. We talk and laugh – the long awaited Sephardic tunes are heard.
This generation when we are secular, can we again feel the home of our fathers who had in their hearts warmth and sanctity? And what about our sons? Where will they go and what will they find in our homes?