At the dedication of the Chochmat Ha-Lev retreat center in California, Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi recounted this story:
Once he was in Boston on a sabbatical for the year. When it was time to get ready for Pesach, he realized he didn't have all of the proper religious items--
that is he was missing the blow torch he used each year to prepare his oven and stove for Passover.
He called his friend Rabbi Arthur Green to see if he could borrow his blow-torch.
Then, the two rabbis worked together to kasher their kitchens.
Before I continue with the story, it is important to know that both of them
are among the most creative and influential teachers and theologians of
Judaism over the last four decades.
Reb Zalman (as he is usually called) continued: as we were leaning over the stoves with their blow torch, one said to the other, "Look at us. Two radical Jewish theologins getting rid of crumbs with a blow torch." The other responded: "We may be two radical theologians but hametz is hametz."
The last week or so has been quite hectic getting ready for Pesach: cleaning, straightening, kashering.
Last night, students at Amherst and Smith started kashering the kitchens they use on a regular basis. This morning, I used a huge rapid-boil pan in Morrow-Wilson to prepare utensils for the dining-services provided meals in Chase Duckett. When the student kitchens are finished tonight, we still have to do the catering kitchen at Amherst, the Student Kitchen in Smith's
Campus Center, and finish the area we will use in Chase-Duckett and the Kosher kitchen at the Cadigan Center. Sometime tonight, we hope to finish our kitchen at home.
Traveling with me in my car has been my Kasher 2 Go Kit: my blow torch, a scraper, a screw-driver, sponges, brillo pads, a mesh bag for little items, and gloves that withstand high temperatures (as I dip things into the boiling water). There are also plastic ties to close drawyers and plastic sheeting to cover counters, cabinets, etc.
As I have been driving around cleaning and kashering, I sometimes think how rediculous this must seem to others. I know that many students really don't care about hametz as long as the food is good and bread-free. They never have any idea how many meetings it takes to set everything up, order food, shop for last-minute items, and clean and kasher.
Whenever I think about this, I remember Reb Zalman and Rabbi Green:
this may be Smith and Amherst Colleges in the liberal Pioneer Valley,
but hametz is hametz!
May all of usachieve redemption in joy and happiness as we
Releave Egypt once more!
May we merit to celebrate Seder next year in a peaceful,