This blog post previously appeared on Huffington Post. It was written with Ilana Kruger, senior at Brandeis University.
Obey your rabbi and your doctor! This year it’s easier than ever to follow any dietary restrictions and still keep Passover. Not only has the Conservative Movement declared that Ashkenazi Jews can eat Kitniyot, (foods permitted to Sephardic Jews on Passover), but you can get gluten-free matzah!
Orthodox and Conservative Jews eat Matzah for eight days, and the Reform as well as Israelis do it only for seven, which is another story about a time when one part of the globe did not know the exact date in another part of the globe. We eat the Matzah, which is unleavened bread that resembles a cracker, to remind ourselves of how the Jews did not have time to allow their bread to rise as they left Egypt in a rush to escape slavery.
I wonder what our ancestors wandering in the desert would think about the varieties of Matzah now available. Google Matzah and you will see the wide variety available today. There was something paradoxical yet wonderful about remembering deprivation with plenty. On the one hand it seems ridiculous. Our ancestors did not have whole wheat, egg, spelt, now gluten free choices. On the other hand, freedom of choice is a great way to celebrate freedom.
Each year, we are commanded to tell the story of leaving Egypt as if we were there ourselves. We put ourselves into the story by bringing to it our own experiences from the past year. In this way, we all come out of our own personal Egypt every year at the Seder.
What better way to celebrate freedom then to encourage each one of us to reflect on our own slaveries of the preceding year. Perhaps this is why the Passover ceremonies have lasted for 2000 years: we both ground it in the past and connect it to the present.
As anyone who has been sick in the past year knows, we are all enslaved by ill health. Those of us that are considered “healthy” may also be enslaved by our health and wellness routines: gyms, nutritionists, health food products, supplements. Although it is not the Jewish New Year, Passover can be a time to think about what is holding us back, and what we can do to make our lives less stressful. There are many ways to be healthy and enjoy life without obsessing.
Each year, Passover brings a whole new Kosher for Passover choices into our kitchens. As medical research advances, more people are eliminating problematic foods from their diets and adding in foods that are better for their sensitive digestive systems.The stereotypical “Jewish stomach” no longer needs to find Passover daunting. The abundant Matzah options are more than just a luxury or modern convenience.
Matzah and other similar products are notoriously rough on the system. Dietary restrictions are now easier than ever to follow. A simple Google search will bring up tons of blogs and recipes to fit your needs. The same can be said for Passover cooking, and now you can find gluten free Passover recipes. Modern conveniences can in fact enhance our religious practices – who knew!
This Passover, don’t be annoyed with relatives and friends who have dietary restrictions. Make your table welcoming with a box of gluten-free Matzah.
Just as we make each Passover our own, we can now make the food conform to everyone’s needs. We could be both politically correct and medically correct. We make new customs and keep the old.