religion

Reclaiming Passover

I want to write a story, but my brain has been too full of to-do lists, too full to be able to fit in characters made out of young men or old women in the times of Egypt.
I want to be inspirational, but my tired fingers don’t have much to say.
It’s so easy to get caught up in the little details, the lists that need to be checked off, the things that go wrong, the scrubbing.
As a kid, Passover was my favorite holiday. I would count down, buy some new exciting outfits, and wait for all my older siblings to come home. I loved all the Passover cookies and meals, the Seder night was a treat, and I’d always fall asleep nearby to the sound of family and friends singing familiar tunes.
But as I grew up, Passover became less and less enticing. The workload involved grew heavier as I became a more responsible adult. The Seder grew more tiring when falling asleep on the couch was not an option. As I began to fall in love with cooking and exploring flavors, Passover represented bland food and limited options. While it still remains an enjoyable time with family, the cons slowly outweighed the pros. The stress leaked out from the 8 days, spreading to the weeks before. Never more than now do I feel surrounded by tired, stretched thin Jewish people, working tirelessly to get to their goal.
What went wrong?
As someone who dearly loves every Jewish holiday and looks forward to each one, even Yom Kippur, it was deeply disturbing to me to realize that a part of me was dreading Passover and all it came with. I pride myself in truly loving my religion, finding joy in the way I live my life, and I was heartbroken to discover this truth.
My social media has been filled with worried, overworked, overtired Jewish women, desperate to be doing it all right.
On one hand, it’s beautiful. It’s beautiful that so much care is being given to such tiny details. It’s beautiful that so much work is going into one holiday.
But on the other hand, it’s hard to see the beauty. It’s hard to see the beauty in cuts and scratches, aching backs and tired muscles, sleepless nights and a never-ending feeling of guilt of not having done everything necessary.
Is this what Passover is about? Is this what any holiday is about? Is this what Judaism is about?
Yes, my religion is about consistently going the extra mile. It’s about pushing yourself, seeing the big picture, and working towards bigger goals.
But when things get clouded, when we lose focus, when we are more concerned about the crumbs than about what the crumbs represent – that’s when it feels like we are losing Passover.
The purpose of cleaning our houses of any leavened bread, cookies, cakes, candies etc. represents removing ego from our lives.
How many times did I think about that as I scrubbed?
Sadly, not much.
How many people have I seen, boasting about how hard they’ve been working, or how early they were able to complete their goals?
Sadly, too many.
I would not hesitate to say that ego is the source of all evil.
This holiday represents finding our essence again, getting to the source, freeing ourselves from outside influences, the boundaries of egotistic behaviors, and our self-made limits.
This holiday is a rich and fascinating one, celebrating the way G-d always has His eye on us, celebrating the way we were once slaves but miraculously gained our freedom.
This holiday is about inviting friends and family to join us, to gather and sing, to eat and to laugh, to speak late into the night about who we are, and how we got this far.
Is this holiday about getting on our hands and knees and scrubbing?
Yes. This is how we prepare, this is how we rid ourselves of our ego, of our self-imposed limits.
Is this holiday about stress and tension, panic and anxiety?
No. There is no such holiday in our calendar.
As the holiday officially begins tomorrow night, and as families across the world gather together and sit down for their Seder, I hope that we can all reclaim Passover. To remember what the purpose is, to remember that the excitement we felt as children should still be at the surface of our hearts.
I can not speak for others, I can not feel for others, but I know I will try my hardest to stop focusing on how long the list is, and focus more on what the list is for. Focus on what we are working towards. Focus on ridding myself of my ego to make room for meaningful thought and true celebration.
It is my 21st birthday tomorrow on the secular calendar, and I yearn to have the easy excitement of my childhood, to marvel at each new thing, to reclaim Passover with the untethered joy of a child.
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