By Michele Herenstein

Chanukah was early this year, and it’s a long stretch till the next chag. That might be a relief, if I hadn’t gotten an email with the subject “OMG, Pesach already?” This email came from my best friend while she was on jury duty, twiddling her thumbs.

The Jewish newspapers are already coming out with ads for places to go for Pesach, while most of us are dealing with everyday life in January 2019! I’m reading the 5TJT, and every other page or two discusses Passover 2019 in Boca Raton, Israel, Italy, Spain, PGA National Resort, the Hilton Westchester, Gateways, or the JW Marriot, to name just a bunch.

Each Pesach destination must have gourmet food, a cantor, rabbis to give speeches, daily minyanim (both Sephardi and Ashkenazi), scholars-in-residence, entertainment, day camp, babysitting, etc.

From the newspapers, it seems to be a given that everyone is going away for Passover; it’s just a matter of where. California? Miami? Florence? Hard decision, huh? Or maybe there’s no decision at all. Maybe there are enough families who can’t afford to go away. The Pesach programs are very expensive, and just because many of us live in affluent neighborhoods, that doesn’t mean we have the financial means to go away for Pesach.

Passover is a very difficult holiday to cook for, and the kids are always underfoot, so it’s no wonder people want to go away. But for some, it’s simply not an option. And we must learn to respect this and teach our children that not everyone can afford to go away. Staying home is quite a viable and respectable option.

When my best friend then saw an ad for Sukkot, she quite simply hyperventilated. Life is tough enough without having to deal with future chagim that are really way in the future. Since some of us are single, we have to follow our parents or siblings, if they’ll have us, or be alone and do the best we can. It’s a sad situation either way.

I know this next discussion was mentioned in the paper already, but it correlates to going away for the chagim. Yeshiva week is now a big deal. When I was little, we stayed home because it was too expensive to go away. My parents would try to be creative and take the four of us to the zoo, the city, Nunley’s, the botanical gardens, or other places as mini-vacations. There were always certain families who went away, but we couldn’t afford to. The same thing is happening today at a much larger scale. More families than ever go away for yeshiva week.

A conversation you might overhear between middle school girls:

“Lily, I’m going to Disney World next week. I’m so excited!”

“Shana, I did that last year. We’re going to Denver and then Aspen afterwards, and we even have our own skis.”

“I don’t like skiing anyway, Lily. Next year we’re going to Montana to learn to horseback ride.”

Can kids be any more entitled? It’s so distressing that these children expect to be gratified in certain ways.

Going away for vacation and then for Pesach (not much later in the year) is expected in some families. In others, the children look forward to not having school, and going on mini-vacations with their families. But there is probably envy. What child wouldn’t want to go away while watching friends take their personal luggage to a far-out vacation destination?

Life isn’t fair, as almost all of us know. But if we’re staying home, we could do our best to show how home is truly a special place. Families can make an old-fashioned Seder fun in many ways, something enjoyable despite the hard work.

I grew up with relatives at the Pesach table, many of them knowing almost no Hebrew. I had to stand up on a chair and sing Mah Nishtanah. I blushed like the little girl I was. But it was family, and we were all together. I feel we’re losing that sense of family.

It’s only the end of January, and we should be able to live in the minute. To have to make decisions about Pesach and even next Sukkot is super-stressful. If families who stay home can get together and invite singles, widows, and widowers, and other families, this might make for a nice social atmosphere.

Whether you go to Morocco, Brazil, Spain, Puerto Rico, the Caribbean, or France during yeshiva week or Pesach, or whether you stay home with your lovely family, you can have a beautiful time. Family and good friends mean everything. A Seder can be organized and put together on any continent as long as the people together care for each other.

I believe it’s not so much about money, but about family. Given the right conditions, anyone can have the best time with the people they love. Jealousy is a wasted emotion. Love is an emotion that endures.

Hope your yeshiva week was exceptional, full of Torah and fun, and I hope you’re able to relax about Pesach. Whether you go away or stay home, make it the right decision for you.

Michele Herenstein can be reached at msh61670@gmail.com

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