For those of you who are not Israeli or have just come on Aliyah, Couscous is the name of a lovely Morrocan dish, made of semolina (wheat), carefully steamed until it clumps, then served with soup broth and vegetables. Those of us who did not grow up with a Morrocan grandmother use the instant kind. When you’re on the run, you can buy a one portion serving in a cup – just add hot water, wait five minutes and it’s all yours!
It was a perfect year. Everything was scrubbed – everything shined. Every pocket checked, every nick, nook and cranny gone over with a fine tooth comb. No need for Kol Chamira that year!
Okay, so my kids had a “Miami” tan, having spent most of the last two weeks in the triangle – not the Bermuda Triangle, G-d forbid – but the one between our building and the neighboring ones. Home away from home. I was familiar with the saying “Dust is not Chometz and kids are not a Korban Pesach”, but looking around my spotless home, I felt maybe the “sacrifice” was justified.
As I admired my shining faucets (okay, so the nickel was showing in a few places where I put too much oven cleaner), my son walked in. He looked exhausted but happy, having become quite a hand Matzoh expert, working in a well-known factory for the last two weeks. As the factory was located in Bnei Brak, he had been living out of his knapsack. The pay was quite good, so it was well worth the sacrifice. I guess “sacrifices” run in the family!
A little while before candle lighting, I calmly mentioned to him that he should go over his bag. Maybe there was something in it that should be put away before Pesach, like chewing gum, for instance.
So he stood at the entrance of our kitchen, which was actually part of the living room (very modern) and pulled out a smashed, wet container from his knapsack. “Is this Chometz?” he innocently asked, as the contents spilled all over the floor.
Did you ever see a video where in order to create an effect of disaster, they film the avalanche in slow motion? Close your eyes and imagine a Manah Chama (Instant cup) of Couscous spilling in slow motion all over the floor between the kitchen and the dining room table (you know the one you use for Seder night) about twenty minutes before the siren goes off.
MY SIREN WENT OFF!
COUSCOUS! COUSCOUS! COUSCOUS IS CHOMETZ!
“Oh really”, my innocent son said, “I thought it was Kitniyos!”
And just in case some smart alec is thinking, “well, maybe the factory bakes the Couscous within 18 minutes, so there might be a side to say it’s not Chometz Gamur”, there was a bag of chocolate milk in the knapsack as well - which just happened to have a little hole, which just happened to make about half of the Couscous wet. Chad Gadya, Chad Gadya. Halacha Shiur over.
Targil Haga (drill for emergency situations run periodically in Israel to practice for earthquakes etc.) begins.
(Important note: We were living in a one bathroom apartment at the time.)
Well, the body is amazing. In situations like these, the brain works at full speed. Instinct takes over.
“Get out of the Ambatia (Hebrew for room with bathtub)”, I said (okay, screamed). I need the bathtub NOW to wash everything off.
THIS IS AN EMERGENCY!
“Shalom Bayis is more important than Chometz”, some kid said (must have been one of the neighbor’s kids – mine know better) as he dodged my punch.
Somehow, I managed to clean most of the Couscous off the floor. The knapsack was another story. As the siren went off (thirty minutes before sunset) heralding the entrance of this beautiful and meaningful holiday celebrated by young and old all over the world, I grabbed my son’s bag and headed for the public garbage bins across the street - with my son in hot pursuit.
“Please, I beg of you, don’t throw out my charger and Driver’s Ed book!’ he pleaded desperately.
“DO YOU WANT ME TO HAVE A HEART ATTACK? ARE YOU TRYING TO DO ME IN?” I (not so) calmly replied.
That put an end to the discussion.
But being a fair and reasonable person, I did spare the charger and driving theory book, which went into quarantine for the duration of Pesach. Also three undershirts that spent the holiday in a bucket of water and bleach.
It’s a good thing my husband said “Kol Chamira” that year.
Amazingly enough, everything was in order before sunset. There was definitely Couscous under the table at the Seder, but even more amazingly, I felt calm about it. I think I knew what Hashem was trying to tell me (and my husband).
My Pesach cleaning didn’t have to be 100%. Chometz should not get into your food on Pesach, you should not own a Kezayit of Chometz either, but a few crumbs in a corner or even under the table are not really a problem.
Put your priorities in order.
That’s what Hashem wants.
So every year when that little “juke” (bug in Hebrew), begins nagging at me and I start going overboard on cleaning, I say the magic word,
And remember the Seder night where I sat in my non-perfect house with little grains of Couscous somewhere on the floor and learned one of the biggest lessons of my life. Eighty per cent is also okay.
Wishing you all a Chag Kosher Vesameach,
P. S. I hope this article gave you a little laugh during this busy time. It is my way of saying thank you to all the caring people, many of whom we have never met, who help and support us in our ongoing journey.
In case you’re wondering, the story is true.
All the best,