Why are the holiday preparations for Passover this year different from all the other times we prepared for Passover? The way I see it, from the very beginning, Passover preparations have been different and challenging. In Exodus we read about two preparations of Passover, the first being the actual Exodus from Egypt, and the second being given the rules of preparations for the yearly celebrations following. We stood at the foot of Mt Sinai and agreed to follow all of the mizvot given to us.

Now fast forward to my life. I have done my best to keep Passover in our home. Starting from the cleaning and progressing on to organizing, exchanging of Passover for regular items, re-koshering appliances, etc., planning Seders, purchasing foods for Seders and for the rest of the Passover Holiday, I have strived to do my best to follow the mitzvot and the abundance of Passover rules Rabbis developed to help us obey the Torah about not having or eating Chametz. Quite honestly, every year has produced its own challenges. Being raised in a non-practicing Jewish household I often pondered how all of the traditional Jewish mothers had the time to do all of this. For me, its not getting easier with more experience.
So here we are in 2021, during our second year of planning for Passover celebrations during the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, I need to plan ahead and figure out the new and exciting challenges and questions I am going to need to deal with this year.

One good thing, cleaning and organizing should be easier. This past year I actually had more time to keep things cleaner and somewhat more organized than usual, (must have been all of that sheltering in place). We’ll see what happens when I get to the switching out regular with Passover items and re-koshering for Passover our appliances and other items. A new unusual twist added to this mix is that we have a regular Shabbat right before the first night of Passover. But I can research that, I have time.

Now, kosher for Passover food purchasing is a different story. Questions wildly go through my mind. Will there be closures of manufactures that we rely on for Passover items, or cut backs due to COVID-19 staffing reductions? Will I be able to get our usuals (matzahs, Gefilte fish, Kosher for Passover Desserts and sweets etc, etc, etc.) and will they be enough to hold us through the holiday? Will they be available locally or will I have to travel down to Marin to get them? Will Marin have the same problems stocking as Sonoma? Will there be enough Passover items for everyone, or will there be shortages, like we went through for toilet paper? How will I know what is there or will I have to come in to check periodically? Will I be able to get in and out of the store as quickly as possible (ideally 20 minutes) while keeping social distance from everyone else trying to get to that small popular display of Passover items? How many people will I be shopping for? Will I (hopefully) be vaccinated by then? Will we have herd immunity? If I have someone shop for me, will they know what the difference is between Kosher and Kosher for Passover? Maybe I should I do mail order? Will it get here in time? How early should I order? Will I be able to track the order? What if someone lifts my order from my door way? If I overbuy, where can I store all of my Kosher for Passover foods? Whew…

And, what about the Seders; will we have live Seders with actual company this year? How many families or pods can participate? Will it be inside with social distancing, masks, individual sanitation or hand-washing stations, and windows wide open? Will it be outside the with same preparations? Will singing be allowed? Is it bad taste to require testing and/or quarantine or inquire about vaccinations? Or, will we share our live individual pods seders on zoom with others? Will the Internet hold up? Will we remember to stay on mute so there isn’t a cacophony of sound interfering with the singing? Oh, my, the things I can think of.
You and I know that many of our ancestors went through far worse Passovers. But the Passovers of 2020 and 2021 will certainly stand out in my mind. I can’t wait to hear the stories of how other households are dealing with the 2021 Passover.

Meanwhile, my new motto…Plan well but be flexible. May your Passover preparations and Passover holiday go smoothly.

Janet Stein-Larson
with Myra Stern Thomas, Chair of the Kitchen Committee