In this blog I will offer tips to those with chronic illnesses during the Feasts, and those with a shoestring budget. Also, craft ideas and links that might help you and family create a memorable Passover on a dime. It is a mitzvah to take care of our bodies, but often some have bodies that don’t work the best. And I wondered how many others suffered from some form of disability that caused them pain that was physical during the Feasts of Adonai. What if certain things you did or did not do looked like it was the opposite of the Torah? What if you were not able to keep some of the feasts in their entirety?
I cannot digest Matzah. I tried again last year, became sick, threw up, and had intense swelling in my gut, and the Matzah only made my bout with chronic constipation worse. Reading all the tips for eating Matzah also did not work for me. Jewish/ Messianic website tips explained If you’re old and have brittle teeth, you can soak the Matzah or dip it in juice or water. If it causes constipation, you can add nuts and seeds and fruit and pump up the fiber, but fiber can make me vigorously sick. With gastroparesis and diverticulitis, stomach muscles cannot digest fiber. Nor can I digest lamb or most of the items served at a Seder. Perhaps you are like me? Besides gastroparesis, Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis are Inflammatory Bowel diseases (IBD) that cause the immune system to actively attack healthy tissue in the small and large intestines. Having one or more issues with the gut can cause panic when attending a Seder. But have no fear, there is always a way.
Matzah is well known for causing digestion problems for the healthiest of people, mostly constipation, but it can cause bad stomach pains too. And those with chronic issues need to be careful. If you are determined to eat the Matzah, go for the softer ones, which are the egg matzah, not the harder plain ones, but if you are allergic to eggs, look for the ones made with egg white powder. Manischewitz, Yehudah, Streit’s, and Lieber’s brands make gluten-free versions of Matzah. These brands might work for you. Perhaps, you have a child with nut allergies or other allergies. Here is a blog that may help you: Click Here.
One link gives a list of ingredients in Matzo for each name brand and shows which do not have eggs or nuts, soy, etc. Click HERE.
Some of my friends this year with gastroparesis will not be eating lamb or Matzah as they are being fed through tubes. One said, “I’m 100% j-tube feed for the 1st Passover this year. I will just be reading the Haggadah.” What’s a J-tube? ( A jejunostomy tube (J-tube) is a soft, plastic tube placed through the skin of the abdomen into the midsection of the small intestine. The tube delivers food and medicine until the person is healthy enough to eat by mouth.) This person is doing what they can and the Father sees this. What a trooper to still read the telling of the story and meditate on coming out of sin and bondage into His marvelous Light.
Besides the meal and its obstacles, Pesach cleaning is a marathon for the well-bodied. If you are in a flare-up, don’t have the strength or ability to participate, remember you can make it to the 2nd Seder/ Passover.
Another friend in my support group said, “I’m Jewish and can no longer keep kosher for the holiday due to the number that the food does to me. My health is more important than keeping the holiday if it means I don’t suffer as bad.” Another friend posted this, “I threw up all day last Passover but managed some GF matzo ball soup and kept it down, thankfully.” I am so honored to read post by these strong believers doing their best before the Holy One.
But it’s not just Passover that can cause issues, weekly Sabbaths can as well. As people prepare beautiful challah loaves for Shabbat, I’m reminded this, too, now makes me suffer in pain afterward. I also can’t knead the dough. I don’t have muscle strength. I’m not allowed to lift anything heavier than ten pounds, 5 to be safe due to my ostomy. And with chronic fatigue, on some days, I’m lucky to have the dishwasher loaded or emptied when my husband gets home from work, let alone knead bread. Sure, there are recipes made in baggies and simpler recipes, but the bread makes my stomach swell. Yes, when I feel good, I can and do prepare a nice meal, but not consistently. I no longer beat myself up over this. Just holding my new grandson involves a special pillow that puts his weight on it. Again, I do not want pity, but I wonder how many people are struggling like me with keeping Unleavened bread or Yom Kippur because fasting blows my stomach up to pregnant proportions? How many people look fine on the outside but are screaming on the inside? How many are caregivers for spouses with chronic conditions?
How many mothers have chronically Sick children? How many special diets do they require? Autistic children who get bread on a fish sandwich every Friday will not understand why it’s missing. This can result in screaming and banging their heads. I watched one friend’s son do just that. He was one fish stick shy of the five he was used to getting and one piece of bread shy of a sandwich. The amount of screaming, rocking, and slamming his head over this was disturbing. I don’t pretend to know what that is like to deal with for the child or the parent, but that parent needs to keep that bread in their pantry or garage or a place where their child does not have to suffer so.
Choose life. Life is most important. Health is most important.
Do you need to bring your separate plate to the Seder? If so, do so. Can you only tolerate some chicken broth? Then bring it to the Seder. When you keep His Festivals, are you aware of others who may be trying their best but look wrong to the Body? Cooking food on dung looked wrong as well. Yet the prophet Ezekiel was commanded to cook his food on dung. Marrying a Harlot looked wrong, but the prophet Hosea did just that. Being Barren and not having a child until you’re in your 90s looks wrong, but Sarah, the prophetess, experienced that. If you see someone not partaking of the unleavened bread during the Telling, maybe they have reasons. And maybe they don’t want to discuss those reasons or have attention placed on them. Just keep your focus on the celebration.
Dealing with chronic illness amid people who look at you with pity or attempt to heal you or cast a demon out of you only makes you feel less like the body of Messiah. I wanted to write a blog that doesn’t just highlight these issues concerning keeping the feasts but also those who live below their means or below poverty. How can they enjoy the Feasts if they don’t have a community or don’t feel like they fit into the one community around them? I have some tips. I’m praying this message reaches those who need to hear it. It’s not easy to write.
If you have a family to feed and food is in short supply, and rely on bread as a filler, you don’t have to burn your bread or throw it out. As we keep the feasts year after year, we can begin preparing sooner and not purchasing items we know are not Passover friendly as the feasts draw near. If you have quite a few things you are unsure about but need to use to feed your family, you can always tie the bread and crackers, etc., up in bags and place them in your shed if you have one or garage area. Again, if this is not something you feel comfortable doing, see if someone will hold your items.
If you don’t have a lot of money for food concerning Passover, you can do a thrifty table using things around your house. Top sheets can make great tablecloths. If you have a colorful top sheet or white top sheet, use it as a spread. You can find candles relatively cheap at the dollar store or dollar tree. No holders? You can make candle holders by using jars or ceramic bowls. Live by the woods? Grab a nice branch and drill holes in it for candles. Live by the sea? Place shells in the jar or decorative flowers. Get creative. Try to get your children involved. You can find many links with crafts to do, and some are pretty cheap. I will post the ones I found. Paper plates and cotton balls, and a few markers create a lamb for your side table. Don’t have a fancy Seder plate, let your children make them by coloring the items on a paper plate. Draw circles around the outside of the plate and label the items with a marker—Shank bone, parsley, egg, etc. Or use rocks like one creative Pinterest mother did.
Crafts for kids and adults– HERE
If you are chronically ill and invited to a Seder, make sure you sign up to bring Matzah, wine, or items for the Seder plate that doesn’t involve much work, even if you can’t digest those items. But bring items you can tolerate as well. Are you staying home and doing a Passover with the family due to your location or money situation? One easy way to create a beautiful meal is by placing a whole chicken in the crockpot. You can use the bones and part of the broth for matzah ball soup and the meat for BBQ. Carrots are cheap and easy to roast with parsley and butter. Roast a chicken with lemon and tarragon. You can make a quiche using Matzah, eggs, and cheese.
If you are tired and can’t endure the whole event, ask the host if you can lay down. Or if you are at home and feel tired, rest. Get the children to help you prepare. Healthy spouses need to be helping as well. Don’t compare your humble table to others. See the beauty in your creativity and your children’s crafts. Make it memorable.
When the assembly is standing through song or prayers and you can’t, don’t fret. One Rabbi at a synagogue consistently reminds people that this means either body or spirit when he says all rise. He would remind people that some cannot rise of body, either ever or consistently, and that’s okay, but we all can rise of spirit.
May the beauty of His Holy Days comfort you and be personal. Take a deep breath and know that you are loved and that you are not alone. Drink in the smells and smiling faces. Picture the children of Israel fleeing bondage and slavery and crossing the sea of Reeds. Remember resurrection and life are coming and the blood of a spotless lamb who sees all our infirmities.
Let’s have Happy Feet 🙂
And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all are naked and laid bare before the eyes of Him with whom is our account. Therefore, since we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, יהושע the Son of Elohim, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a High Priest unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who was tried in all respects as we are, apart from sin. Therefore, let us come boldly to the throne of favor, in order to receive compassion, and find favor for timely help. (Hebrews 4:14-16, ISR).
Wishing you and yours a beautiful Passover season.