I am a real people person. From an early age, I have loved to interact with people. My family teases me that all of my close female acquaintances consider me their best friend! My children bemoan the fact that everywhere they go, someone knows their Mom, so they always have to be on their best behavior!
Just recently, one of my sons was somewhere for a Shabbos meal, and a couple he had never met came in. When he introduced himself, he saw the wife’s face light up, and he thought in his mind, Oh boy, wait for it! He knew that she was going to say, “Is your mother Becca? She is best friends with my mother!” And that is exactly what happened!
So it will come as no surprise to anyone why I enjoy the weeks before Pesach. Because in all the hectic rush, and the enormous amount of preparations, we are still all in this together. Swapping recipes, sharing where the best sales are for different food products, and generally giving each other chizuk to keep plugging away so that the cleaning will somehow all get done in time! I treasure those intense and lively phone conversations with family and friends.
But, actually, what gives me the greatest pleasure around Pesach is the interaction with the new people I am fortunate enough to meet. It is pretty obvious that I am an Orthodox Jew and, for some reason, I just seem very approachable. I really believe that my Southern accent puts even the most hardened New Yorker at ease!
Before Pesach, over the past few years, this is what I have encountered:
*At Macy’s, an elderly gentleman and his wife asked me if this was the best place to buy knives. Their daughter-in-law was making their family’s famous Pesach brisket, and they wanted to thank her by purchasing a nice knife set. They had also heard from their son that the knives had to be dipped in some kind of ‘rain water’ in order for their gift to be used. They were so happy to know that there was a place in town where they could buy a good set of knives…and toivel them there as well. As an added bonus for both of us, at the end of our conversation, we exchanged recipes for how we prepare our briskets.
*In Costco, a middle-aged couple, with a basket full of kosher for Pesach products, wanted to know where to shop for a more extensive selection of paper goods. They were having their extended family over for the sedarim and wanted something with a little more pizazz. Obviously, I told them all about the enormous variety of cutlery, cups, plates, etc…at the Amazing Savings. This also led to a discussion of other Jewish-owned stores on the other side of town that they were not aware of. They were so happy to know that they could buy ‘tzinus’ outfits for their nieces only a few miles from their home.
*In Shoprite, I was very tentatively approached by a woman whose children asked her to look for matzah with a particular hechsher, and she had no idea where it was on the box. I was immediately able to find it for her, and then she asked if I could help her locate a few other items. I suggested that we shop together for our Pesach products, and we had a delightful conversation as we went up and down the aisles. She was particularly grateful that I showed her where to look for the kosher for Passover hechsher on soda bottles, as she did not realize it was on the yellow cap.
*By and large, most conversations I have occur in the kosher supermarkets in my town. There are always people who step into these stores only a few times a year, and you can pretty easily pick them out. They seem to be a little uncomfortable in these surroundings, even though everyone is basically busy with their own shopping mayhem and not noticing them. So many times I will pass them in the aisle, and when they see someone with a friendly smile, they are quick to ask questions about the hechsher, or my opinion on the best brand for a certain product, or ask me, “How do those round matzahs really taste?” In fact, last year, a woman asked to see my alphabetized checklist of kosher for Pesach products, and she was amazed at the selection that was available to her.
*Even the Chassidish cashier wanted to know what I was doing with so many bags of frozen strawberries for Pesach. I told her there are two recipes—one a kugel and one a dessert—that I make which my children particularly like. I would have brought her the finished product, but I know people are extremely careful where their food is cooked on Pesach, so…I brought her the recipes instead.
In the whirlwind of activities surrounding this very special holiday, it may seem hard to squeeze out time to help others. But, it is really not such a difficult thing at all. When you need a break from Pesach cleaning, just go shopping! But be sure to walk around with a very pleasant countenance. You may even wind up with guests at your table who have never been to a seder before. The seemingly mundane act of shopping for Pesach can be elevated into an unbelievable Kiddush Hashem instead!