Despite the fact that our government is teetering on its last leg, the security situation is worrisome, and rockets are being launched toward our southern communities, Israelis were out and about on Chol HaMoed traversing the length and breadth of our beautiful country. The comfortable weather along with the festive atmosphere beckoned over a million Israelis who flocked to nature reserves, forests, and attractions around the country during the chag.

I’m stuck. I’ve been running around my home, from room to room, cleaning, organizing, and yes, looking for chametz. I filled bags with stuff to give away and throw away, and I got rid of all of our expired medications. I’m slowly finishing off the bread and homemade delicacies left in my freezer and I’m plowing through the last bags of pasta and boxes of cereal in the pantry. I had been on a good schedule and was moving ahead at an efficient pace.  But now I stopped. Short.  I’m up to the point of cleaning out the closet. The upper closet in my room is the storage warehouse of my memories.  Through the keepsakes set aside from various experiences and periods of my life that line my shelves, I’m able to see, hear, touch, and at times, even smell days gone by. All I have to do is open the door and the memories come gushing out like gusts of gale winds, transporting me back in time. 

Nobody can ever accuse me of waiting until the last minute to prepare for Pesach.  No, not me.  I started my prep several weeks ago. I went to the store and bought toothbrushes.  This is one of the most difficult tasks of Pesach prep.  Even here in Israel, the toothbrush section in the supermarket is not as small as it used to be.  So many choices!  Brands galore. Hard.  Soft.  Medium.  With a cover.  Without a cover.  Package of one.  Two.  Economy pack.  Electric.  A rainbow of colors to choose from.  But I did it.

It was very close to Shabbos when my daughter informed me of the sudden passing of Rav Chaim Kanievsky, the Gadol HaDor. I was stunned. True, Rav Chaim was coming along in years, but his passing was unexpected. Many in Yerushalayim were in the midst of their Purim s’udos when the news began to circulate. The loudspeaker in Ramat Beit Shemesh, which normally plays uplifting music just prior to Shabbos, played sad music in light of the news. It happened so quickly that some hadn’t even heard the news until they came to shul on Friday night.

After entertaining the idea for many months, my husband, daughter, and I traveled to the kever of Rav Yeshaya Steiner, the legendary Reb Shaya’le of Kerestir, located in northeastern Hungary, near the border with Slovakia and Ukraine.  I have to admit that the war in Ukraine did give us pause, but we thought about Israelis who hear that we are from New York and ask if we know their relatives in LA because both are located in the US.  Hungary borders Ukraine but we figured that it is still quite a distance from the fighting.  We overcame our reservations and kept our reservations. 

Yesterday, my husband, daughter, and I went on a spontaneous trip up north to visit kivrei tzadikim (graves of the righteous).  We had talked about this possibility last week, but it wasn’t until we saw the sun shining and felt the cool breeze of early spring that we decided to grab a picnic lunch and hit the road.  For the first time, we skipped Meron and headed straight to Teveria.  It was such a pleasure taking this trip off-season.  Wherever we went, there was room to breathe, walk, sit, and even park the car.  We felt we were experiencing miracles even before we had started to daven.  As we drove from one destination to the next, we were able to take in the picturesque scenery and breathe the fresh air.