Awoke to a snowfall. One month into spring by the calendar and there was snow on the ground. Snow here. Snow there. Snow was falling everywhere. Passover begins this evening and it was SNOWING. This Hebrew month – Nissan – was decreed in the Torah as the first month of the year. The natural world was beginning anew, regenerating everything in sight. All the sky above me was regenerating was snow. (Let’s leave Rosh Hashanah, that holiday we all call the Jewish New Year, for another post.)
When I’d gone to bed the night before, the hemlocks edging the backyard were upright and green, adolescents taking in the rays. By morning they were once again bearded with snow, their spines hunched over as if protecting their fading and feeble hopes for sun. I considered introducing an eleventh plague at the Seder this evening.
I drove to synagogue with the wipers wiping and the defroster defrosting. Today is the fast of the firstborn but the rabbis set aside the fast if firstborns studied first. So, firstborn that I am, I was off to synagogue for the morning service, a bit of study and a last bit of bread before the coming week of matzah. The morning would close with burning hametz – the last of the forbidden crumbs/noodles/bread that we had gathered last night.
We stood before the grill, waiting for the hastily-gathered twigs, paper and a windblown branch or two to catch fire. When it finally blazed we recited the blessing nullifying any errant crumbs we might have missed and threw our little bundles of chametz into the fire. We stayed a few minutes warming our hands and faces in the open flame while the snow fell around us.
I pondered the plague of snow God might have sent had Pharaoh ruled Minnesota instead. It occurred to me that God had sent something else from the heavens in addition to the insects, boils, hail and the rest. There was manna, too. As the story goes, the Children of Israel could imagine it into whatever they wanted – roast beef, pizza, cherry pie. Walking to my car, the snowflakes falling about me, I imagined them into cherry blossom petals, the kind that swirl through the air on fragrant breezes come May. Long after the snows have passed and we are truly set free from winter.