My first Pesach (Passover) celebration was in Jerusalem in 2006. It was my first trip to the Land of Israel and the timing was not something that I was considering at all. It all just worked out in ways that I couldn't even begin to ask for or imagine and I know WHO to thank for that. The circumstances that led to me finding myself as a guest at the table of strangers could only have been orchestrated by the Hand of ONE much greater than I. The memories of that night remain etched in my mind in great detail.
In the following years, I have found myself slowly moving from being a participant to becoming the hostess. This has changed my perspective and understanding of Pesach in ways that far exceeded the blessings of just being a participant. The planning and thought and considerations that must be made from the viewpoint of hosting Pesach are enormous in comparison to just having to show up on time.
Each year, we are deeply concerned with the timing of this event as it sets up the flow of the next four Biblical feasts. Each year, we are bemused and confounded by the varying dates that are argued by all those that are out here trying to "get it right". As always, we check and re-check our lunar websites and keep a watchful eye on the moon as it dutifully waxes into it's glorious fullness. Cloudy skies add an edge of concern as we draw closer to this special night.
This year, we once again found ourselves preparing for a quiet meal as there was no one around with an interest in joining with us. No matter, as our current level of busy-ness didn't leave us with a lot of time to prepare much more than we'd already done. We were able to get the "yeast" out of the house and that literally went down to the wire as DannyLee finished off the last of the loaf of bread for his afternoon meal.
On Monday, we'd ordered a 5-pound leg of lamb from the local butcher and went with a bit of fear and trepidation to pick it up. I still had no idea what this was going to look like as my internet searches on lamb recipes had showed a wide variety of cuts and presentations. When we arrived at the store, we were presented with a string-wrapped portion similar to a large roast beef. We both breathed a sigh of relief at the sight of it. It not only would easily fit into our refrigerator, but it would fit into our tiny freezer.
I asked the butcher if we would be able to slow roast this cut and he expressed his doubts that lamb would do well under such cooking methods. Our grill is still buried in ice and snow and it's still cold enough to make cooking outside impractical so it was back to the internet for recipe ideas. The Scriptures say that we're not to boil the lamb in water which is what I had resorted to last year after reading several recipes. I did a quick search on "slow roasted lamb".
HOORAY!! My search turned up a simple recipe for roasting a 5-pound leg of lamb (boneless roast) in the oven. The temperature was set at 250 degrees and the meat actually cooked for 7 hours. I used a large roasting/cooking bag meant for a turkey without any water. I put a layer of dried rosemary, garlic chips and kosher salt over the top of the roast and then I sprayed it all down with garlic juice.
My next search was for a simple Seder booklet. I didn't want to use the same Seder that I had used last year. There were too many things in that one that we found confusing or even frustrating to follow. So I did a quick search on "simple Seder" and once again, my search was rewarded with a wonderful Seder booklet that I was able to print out and follow through the meal without confusion.
Our one goal for this year's Pesach was to observe this as a "night watch" as our Messiah did during HIS time. We didn't make the whole night as I was getting quite fuzzy by 3 a.m. I'd been up and about 21 hours by that point and I admit that 24 hours without sleep just isn't as easy as it used to be. By 3:30 a.m., we felt that we had made a brave effort to keep watch and it was now time for us to give it up and hit the hay.
Our Pesach celebration was especially joyful for us this year as we truly felt that we had somehow arrived at a much fuller understanding of this special feast. We've finally reached the point where we have a sense of peace with our efforts. In the past, there have been so many times where we've felt overwhelmed with thoughts that we didn't "do it right" or we made too many concessions because of circumstances that we can't control. This year, all of those things seemed to fall away and in the end, we are happy to say that we kept this very special "night watch".
P.S. The lamb recipe turned out to be the best lamb that either of us had ever eaten!