Holidays Articles

How Cleaning the Refrigerator Helps Us Come Closer to Hashem

cleaning lady

You’re beautiful, but you’re empty...One couldn’t die for you. Of course, an ordinary passerby would think my rose looked just like you. But my rose, all on her own, is more important than you hundreds of other roses; because it is she that I have watered… she that I have sheltered behind the screen…Because she is my rose.” (The Little Prince, Antoine de Saint-Exupery)

I couldn’t help thinking of this passage from the beautiful classic, The Little Prince, as I stood in my kitchen a week before Pesach, a toothpick in my hand and a bucket of one-third bleach and two-thirds cleanser at my feet.

Life is so interesting, so full of adventures waiting to happen, and here I am, aching and tired, racing towards the deadline of bedikas chametz night. Hashem, is this really what You want me to be doing? Is my destiny really meant to be about obsessing over a breadcrumb that has escaped under the vegetable bin?

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To Clean or Not to Clean… Not a Pesach Tale

cleaning supplies

Living in a clean and orderly environment is generally touted as a good thing. (And in the weeks before Pesach, it equates to the highest levels of tzidkus, literally.) That is why mothers from time immemorial have made futile attempts at achieving this goal. Many of us do not shoulder the entire burden alone. Credit must be given where credit is due: to our husbands, who often take on a fair share of the responsibilities, and to our children, who also help out a lot. However, no matter how much man, woman, or child power we dedicate to keeping our homes clean, the mess and clutter always seem to accumulate faster than our little brooms can sweep – hence, the brilliant idea of “the cleaning lady.”

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The Art of Leading an Amazing Seder

seder plate

After the cleaning and the cooking, the shopping and the looking (for chametz), Jews all over the world finally sit down to the Pesach Seder. To make your Seder memorable, the key is to remember that everything before the story is to prepare for the story. Everything after the story is to celebrate the story. The leader of the Seder is the guide on this journey. One of the challenges of the leader is to keep the participants engaged from beginning to end. All the traditional directions (like covering and uncovering the matza, for instance) are just devices to help participants, especially children, pay attention and ask: why? Here are a few more tips and preps for keeping the people around the table engaged:

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The Perfect Pesach Plan


Ask women what is the most stressful time of year and many will tell you “Erev Pesach.” We all have our methods of madness that determine how we handle the situation. There are those who start months in advance and those who wait for the last minute. Some women work randomly, while others work by their carefully plotted schedules and lists. I am one of the latter. I really don’t do well with the carefree, relaxed approach to making Pesach. I’m definitely not a last-minute person and like to feel in control of the situation. Well, as my grandmother used to say, “Man plans, and G-d laughs.” (It sounds better in Yiddish.)

Nissan, 2008. I had diligently worked my way through all the cleaning, culminating in an intense motza’ei Shabbos and Sunday of The Kitchen. Sunday night, we finally finished. What a good feeling! The kitchen was all cleaned, scrubbed, and scoured; ready for the massive line-the-counters/cabinets/etc. project, which would commence the following morning. We settled down for a night of well deserved sleep. Four a.m., the phone rang. It was my husband’s little sister informing us that their mother had passed away. 

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Behind the Scenes at the Jewish Deafblind Shabbaton

shabbos table

Before Baltimorean Sara Leah Kovacs read about the first Jewish Deafblind Shabbaton, which was held in 2010, she assumed you had to be totally deaf and totally blind, like Helen Keller, to participate. When she found out that it was open to people with varying degrees of dual hearing and vision loss, she eagerly signed up for the 2011 and 2013 Shabbatons. At those events, she led tefila (prayer) classes, and is now also the Deafblind delegate to the planning committee for this year’s Shabbaton, along with Deaf delegates David and Sheryl Michalowski.

Mrs. Kovacs will make the 17-mile trip to the Pearlstone Conference and Retreat Center, in Reisterstown, where the Shabbaton will be held this year, from June 12 to 14. Others come from farther away. Mordy Weis will travel 5,817 miles to attend the Shabbaton for a third time. “I gain from the Shabbaton by meeting different people with different backgrounds and different vision issues,” says Mr. Weis, who works for a fabric design company in Holon, Israel. “My favorite part is the ‘panel,’ which debates various issues. At the last Shabbaton, I was asked to help interpret in shul by tactile signing for a Deafblind male, because his female support service provider (SSP) could not accompany him in the men’s section.”

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Venahapoch Hu: From Purim-Pooper to Purim Queen

delivering shalach monos

As the winter wanes and Purim draws near, my family begins to hear comments wherever we go:

“So what are the Raczkowskis dressing up like this year?” or “Can’t wait to see what the Raczkowskis come up with this Purim….” 

Most people have the one Yom Tov that they especially love or identify with. Mine has become Purim. To explain how this came to be, I have to take you back to the beginning. So make yourself comfortable and listen to the whole megillah.

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