“So, uh, when’s the lunar mission launching?”

My cousin stood in the entrance to my tiny kitchen, surveying the tinfoil-covered landscape with a raised eyebrow.

“Don’t come in here!!!” I shriek, leaping up from wrapping another layer of foil around the table legs to tackle her away from my precious chametz-free kitchen. “What did you have for breakfast?!”

“Wh ... what?”

What did you have for breakfast?!”

“Uh ... um ... some eggs?” she stammers, clearly frightened for my sanity and her life.

“Any toast?!”

“Um ... n-no?”

“Don’t lie to me!”

“I d-didn’t eat toast!”

I stare at her for a good, hard second. Satisfied she’s telling the truth, I breathe a sigh of relief. “OK. Good.”

I leave her huddled on the couch as I return to my aluminum wrapping. “Sorry for the outburst,” I call casually. “Did you bring the goods?”

I hear a plastic bag rustling. “Can I come in there?” she asks timidly.

“Yes,” I say. “You’re cleared for entry.”

She reappears in the kitchen doorway and holds out the shopping bag. “They all have the ‘U’ with a circle around it and a ‘P’ next to it.”

I take the cans of tuna out of the bag to confirm their kosher-for-Passover status. “Excellent,” I say. “Thank you.”

“Um,” she says. “I have a question. Why does Rosie need to eat just tuna during Passover? Why can’t she eat regular cat food?”

“Because some of the regular brands of cat food is chametz,” I reply, shuddering at the word. “And I want to be extra careful because during Passover, we eradicate all chametz from our lives.”

“What’s kamits?” she asks. “I thought Jews just don’t eat bread during Passover.”

I roll my eyes. Typical. “Pretty much anything made from or processed with grain we don’t eat or have in our houses.”

“Oh,” she says. She looks around. “Where is Rosie, anyway?”

“Hiding somewhere,” I say. “I sprayed her down in the shower earlier to make sure she didn’t have any crumbs of anything on her.”

“Wow,” she shifts uncomfortably. “Don’t you think you’re getting a little, uh, intense about all this?”

I sigh, rolling my eyes again. “You wouldn’t understand,” I tell her, exasperated. “You’re not Jewish.”

“Well,” she says, “neither are you.”


It was true. All the foil-wrapping, cat-showering, cousin-tackling, frantic-Rabbi-calling craziness was just part of my pre-conversion education. But this was my first Pesach, and you bet I was going to be the most stringent and most religious not-quite-Jew in all of Binghamton, N.Y.!

“Don’t come in here!!!” I shriek

I didn’t bother explaining to my cousin the whole concept of a convert actually having a Jewish soul buried deep within them all along, but needing the conversion process to reveal that fact. I did, however, take the opportunity to glare scathingly at her and resume wrapping my table legs.

“All right,” she takes a step back. “I guess I’m gonna get going.”

“Thanks for the tuna,” I tell her.

“No problem,” she replies. “Have a happy Passover.”

“I’d rather have a perfectly kosher Passover,” I mumble as she heads out the door, slamming it shut at the last second to prevent a damp and traumatized Rosie from bolting after her to freedom.

I’m glad to report that my first Pesach did indeed go off without a halachic hitch. My apartment was probably cleaner for Passover than even the local Chabad House, and Rosie eventually forgave me for the shower when she realized she was getting to eat tuna for an entire week.

But I’m even gladder to report that now, as I approach my ninth Passover as an “official” Jew, my Passover experience has become just as happy as it is kosher. I realizeMy Passover experience has become just as happy as it is kosher that a lot of what I did that first Passover (including wrapping foil wrap on my table legs and not using kosher-for-Passover cat food) was not at all necessary. (Read this and this for some helpful tips what really needs to be done.) Granted, I still might break down and weep bitterly during pre-Passover cleaning, but that’s usually less about the stress of preparing and more about my pain at the thought of living without bagels for eight days.

Going chametz-free no longer feels like slave labor; it’s become part of the process of my personal exodus from Egypt. Every Pesach now, I celebrate not only my people’s past and future redemptions (may it be immediately!), but the redemption of my own soul. It was 21 years of bitter exile she suffered before G‑d finally reached out with a strong arm and reminded her who she really is—a piece of Him, literally. And although I try my best to live with this knowledge every day, it’s during Passover that I feel the strongest connection to my G‑dly self.

Chassidic teachings explain that this time of year, G‑d’s infinite, unconditional love is pouring down on us, and all we have to do is work to clear ourselves of our personal chametz, our ego-based habits and thought patterns, in order to receive and internalize it. So even when we start to count down the hours until that glorious, post-Passover slice of pizza, take a moment to revel in the opportunity you’re being given to connect with G‑d and with your own soul.

Take a moment to revel in the fact that you are a Jew.