On Sunday, Bunny Chapman scrubbed her kitchen cabinets, packed away most of her everyday dishes and kitchen utensils and replaced them with the once-a-year Passover set.
Monday she scoured and "kashered" (purified for Passover) the stove; scrubbed the refrigerator and covered its shelves with waxed paper; and carefully fenced the family's dwindling stock of nonkosher foodstuffs into one corner of the cupboard.
With her kitchen thus ritually clean, she was ready yesterday to begin cooking the gefilte fish, chopped liver, glazed chicken, brisket and other items which will grace a table set with Passover-only dishes and tablecloth, for the Chapman family seders tonight and Thursday night.
"My grandmother used to say: 'Moses led the Israelites out of Egyptian bondage, but he made women slaves in the kitchen at Passover'," observed Rabbi Shelden E. Elster of Agudas Achim Congregation in Alexandria.
But for Bunny Chapman, Alexandria housewife and mother, the rigorous preparations which Jewish law and tradition prescribe for Passover make it "a vital, exciting holiday." Far from resenting the work Passover entails, she welcomes it as an exciting and fulfilling time, an opportunity to deepen both faith and family relationships.
"It's like anything else," she explained to a visitor Tuesday as pots bubbled on the spotless stove and a variety of helpers bustled in and out of her sunny kitchen. "The more you do for something, the more you get out of it. So it's worth all the effort."
Her Passover preparations began weeks ago with a furious housecleaning. "Every room, every closet, every shelf," she explained.
The escape of the ancient Israelites from Egypt, which the eight-day Passover observance commemorates, was so hurried that bread for the journey was baked without letting it rise. Therefore in Passover celebrations through history, only unleavened bread-or matzoh-has been eaten, and observant Jews must neither use nor have access in their homes to anything containing leaven.
In addition to such obvious tiems as bread and cake, foods forbidden in the Passover home also include most cereal grains and their byproducts-including beer and whiskey-and rice, corn millet, beans and peas.
The thorough housecleaning insures no forbidden foods remain. Chapman also views Passover as "literally, a new beginning. . . of renewal, a season to brush out the cobwebs," spiritual as well as literal, she said.
Because Passover is a special time, Jewish law requires that all food for the eight-day period be cooked and served with special utensils reserved for that season. Everyday utensils and dishes may be used only after a rigorous cleansing process.
Glassware, for instance, must be soaked in water for three successive days, with the water changed every 24 hours. Silverware must be thoroughly cleansed, left unused for 24 hours, then soaked in boiling water, then rinsed in cold water.
Like most Jews who can afford it, the Chapmans keep a special set of dishes, cooking utensils, silverware and even a blender just for Passover.
Sunday they began the changeover; yesterday, only one shelf remained for everyday things. Around 10:30 this morning, after which no more food containing leaven may be eaten, Bunny Chapman will tack a towel over the shelf, sealing it off for the holiday period.
A china closet in the living room and a second refrigerator-freezer containing nonholiday foods will be sealed with tape, so no one will open them accidentally.'
Breakfast this morning is scheduled to use up the last of the dry cereal and the bread.
"After that I'll remove the last wax paper form the refrigerator (placed earlier to shield the shelves form contact with non-Passover food) and the (kitchen) changeover will be complete," Chapman said.
For Chapman, these efforts are not just housework; they provide the setting for her family's celebration of an ancient festival which she views as "the quest of mankind forever for a really free world." CAPTION: Picture, Bunny Chapman, right, directs family members in preparing home for celebration of Passover. By James A. Parcell-The Washington Post