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By: Chana Mizrahi

As an Air National Guard spouse, I travel with my husband one weekend per month to our base. Our civilian friends think this must be like a monthly vacation! They don’t comprehend the hardships of having to make Shabbat over there (so often that I feel compelled to make it as nice as at home, since it’s not an occasional thing like a vacation would be), or of not being able to choose the timing at all.

I’ve traveled sick, days after surgery, with a broken foot, mere days (or one day, like the time we raced from our base to make it in time for Rosh Hashanah to begin!) before or after major holidays, back to back with other obligatory trips, with only hours in between—and sometimes, it’s not for only the weekend!

Once, we had to go for six consecutive days on duty, starting two days after Pesach. But we had already committed to traveling to relatives (and we  were bringing all the food and wine!) for the last days of Pesach. Pesach ended Sunday night, and Monday night we already had to be on our way to the base. Since laundry cannot be done on the intermediate days of the holiday, we’d be coming home to almost no clean clothing (which meant I couldn’t pack anything in advance except uniforms), and would have around 20 hours to unpack, wash and dry everything, pack, and also pack all our food for the week! There was no way I’d also be able to turn our Pesach kitchen back to its year round state, and cook for the week.

In this case, as in many cases, planning ahead was key. I would have to make and freeze enough Pesach food to last for two weeks instead of one, which meant I’d have to kasher my kitchen for Pesach much earlier than usual (and I already start early as it is, since I run a discount wig company, Mazette Wigs, and many people like to have a new wig in time for Pesach, so I get quite busy!).

In addition to preparing the kitchen and food early, I also prepared a pile of handwritten lists, to plan for every waking minute of those 20 hours, so I could somehow manage everything. My husband had to go to work in his civilian dental practice that day, and they too are always busier after a holiday, so I couldn’t even count on any assistance. Since we don’t eat much bread or other chametz during the week anyway, it wasn’t so weird to have Pesach food all week, and we bought bread for Shabbat to have in our hotel room. However, it was very surreal to arrive home a full week after Pesach, when everyone else in the Jewish world had quite moved on from Pesach, and know that our home was still kosher for Pesach, that I still had to turn over our kitchen, and that we still couldn’t bring anything into the kitchen!

It is our habit to pick up pizza on our way home from the base, and that’s the only time we even eat pizza (a special monthly treat). Usually, we take it home. A week before Pesach, it can be very normal to see families eating their chametz in a park. That year, a full week after Pesach had ended for the rest of the world, we picked up our pizza as usual, and took it to a nearby park to eat (my husband had been made to understand that it would be dangerous to his health to bring that anywhere near our kitchen!), carefully brushing every crumb off ourselves afterward, and sanitizing our hands lest we forget to not wash them in the kitchen when we got home. It was a classic pre-Pesach scene— except it was exactly a full week after Pesach!

This was one of many times I’ve thought that military life, especially Jewish military life, is quite weird though I must admit that I love rising to these challenges, and I wouldn’t have it any other way!

If you’re finding Pesach difficult or overwhelming this year, just remember that at least it’s (probably) only eight days! Chag kasher v’sameach to all!

Originally published in the Pesach 5784 issue of the Jewish American Warrior.