For many Jewish women, Passover marks a time of slavery rather than liberation. Despite the egalitarian nature of many homes, the jobs of cleaning the house, making the kitchen kosher for Passover (fit for use according to Jewish dietary or ceremonial laws), removing all leavened products – down to the last crumb found in the corner of an upstairs bedroom, and cooking for numerous seder (the ritual Passover meal) guests most often fall on the lady of the home. Thus, on top of all their other daily household duties, childcare responsibilities and professional work outside the home, they must take on the huge job of preparing for this yearly holiday that marks the Biblical story of the Israelite’s escape from Egyptian slavery. It’s not surprising, therefore, that many a good Jewish woman has complained that Passover preparations feel like living in Mitzraim, the Hebrew word for Egypt that means “narrow place.”
However, with a change in perspective these very same women can move out of Mitzraim and see themselves not as slaves to the sponge, mop, vacuum, and stove but as priestess free to create sacred space, to preside over both temple and altar, and to invoke the Divine Feminine Presence into their midst, explains Nina Amir, author of the upcoming Setting a Place for God, A Woman’s Guide to Creating Sacred Space and Inviting the Divine to Dwell Within It.. “Seen in this light, Passover becomes an opportunity for women to exercise a religious leadership role and to transform what might be empty preparations into meaning-full and spirit-full rituals and practices,” Amir explains.
Preparing the home for Passover or for any other Jewish holiday represents a symbolic act that mimics the ancient Temple in Jerusalem. “If women can see their cleaning as a means by which they create sacred space for the holiday, their family, their guests, and the Shechinah (the Divine Feminine Presence), they will approach these duties with a different attitude completely,” says Amir. “In fact, women serve as priestesses in the home at all times but especially on holidays. Since the destruction of the Temple, the home has become a mikdash ma’at, a small temple, and the dinner table a misbeach, or altar. Women are the kohanot, or priestess, that care take the mikdash ma’at and create the stage, the bimah, on which ritual events occur in the home.”
When it comes to cooking, on Passover – or anytime – women become not only kohanot but alchemists as well. “To the Kabbalists, or Jewish mystics, eating represents a clarification process in which our bodies extract the good from the waste and integrate it into our system to create or primi, or inner light. The digested food becomes blood, the medium through which ruach hachayim, the spirit of life or life force, passes,” says Amir, president of Pure Spirit Creations in Los Gatos, CA. “So, when Jewish women offer food of any type – but especially a beautiful, thoughtfully and lovingly prepared meal – to their family and friends, they help those individuals develop their inner light and bring more life spirit into their experience. They turn simple food into light or life force.”
Traditionally, Jewish women have blessed the food they prepare, making the meal a holy offering in and of itself. “Preparing the Passover meal and ritual foods with great intention and while blessing their culinary creations helps women transform their Passover cooking into a spiritual practice,” Amir adds.
Those women leading the actual seder should see this not just as another chore or job for which they must prepare but as an opportunity to preside as a priestess over the ritual meal. “By seeing themselves as a priestesses creating and presiding over the sanctuary of their home, the altar of their table, and the rituals of the seder, Jewish women have a wonderful opportunity to be ritual leaders in their homes. When they light the holiday candles and say the corresponding blessing, they can remember that hey also are invoking the Divine Feminine Presence, or Shechinah,” Amir concludes. “By approaching their “duties” in this way, Jewish women make Passover rituals and observances meaningful and spiritual not only for themselves but for all those in attendance.”
Nina Amir (firstname.lastname@example.org)
15383 Stetson Road Los Gatos, CA 95033 Phone : 408-353-1943