(Passover) has always been my least favorite holiday. Cleaning? A housecleaner has always been a necessity for me, not a luxury. Carbohydrate diets belong in hell. And I just have been unable to get beyond the most basic spiritual meaning of the holiday.
Until this year.
This past Monday Joe and I took the day before the first
off. In the morning we put on some Jewish music and cleaned the kitchen together. During breaks I read aloud from the
and Joe and I talked about the rich and meaningful symbolism of all the rituals that surround our remembrance of Jewish liberation from slavery.
Passover is not a Jewish form of lent. It's a time for us as Jews to remember our ancestors and the agonies they endured in captivity, in escaping captivity, and in
But these memories have spiritual meaning for us today. Joe and I read and talked about darkness and change and struggle followed by light and hope and success, of community and compassion towards all beings, of holiness and how the ritual of kashering and doing without bread products for eight days creates a separate, sacred space that makes us more mindful. We read of "blessing our cracked surfaces and sharp edges, unafraid to see our brittleness and brave enough to see our beauty."
"If we speak truthfully about the pain, joys, and contradictions of our lives," the text continues. "If we challenge the absence of women in traditional texts... If we honor our visions more than our fears,
dayeinu v'lo dayeinu.
It will and it will not be enough."
My heart flooded and tears splashed onto the kitchen table. Salt water, another ingredient on the
table. Tears shed during slavery. Yet the
says that by dipping the bitter herb in the salt water, which we do at our
, reminds us "that tears
Spring comes. And with it the potential for change."
The holiday suddenly took on a new ambience. I found myself thinking about the delicious wholesome food I'd eat, rather than the little bit of which I'd be deprived. I felt a deep gratitude that Joe and I could spend the day together, preparing ourselves for a spiritual and physical cleansing, and that we could look forward to spending the next two evenings with friends whom we've come to love as family. Time slowed and, at age 54, I made my very first cake from scratch, without flour or dairy products, and it turned out to be delicious.
During one final break, Joe and I looked up some texts to deepen the significance of counting the omer, which begins the second night of Pesach, and is a symbolic ritual based on the ancient practice of offering a sacrifice which contained an "omer" (a specific measure) of barley. Each of the 49 days which we count has a specific spiritual energy flowing through it. The culmination is the holiday of Shavuot, the receiving of Torah, and spiritually, just like the days of reflection leading to the High Holy Days, our hearts should rise to a crescendo during these days, making us open to receiving the life-giving mitzvot, ethics, and spiritual and mystical depth of the Torah.
I took a moment to open my heart and make myself receptive, softly singing one of Debbie Friedman's (may her memory be for a blessing) Passover melodies:
"O, Source of compassion,
Through the ages we've been blessed
May we build this city of peace
And may all people make it a place of
peace and freedom..."