Thursday, April 7, 2016

Pesach: My Freedom

There were a group of us sitting at the shiur when the dynamic speaker told us, “Think of the word Pesach and tell me the first word that comes to your mind.”


I kept my mouth shut. Because the words in my head were toothbrushes, vacuum extensions, cheerios, and how-did-my-daughter-embed-pita-into-the-Playmobil-school-bus?

I couldn’t help but think, ‘What’s wrong with them?’ I mean, sure, Pesach is a wonderful time to spend with family, eating matzah at the seder and celebrating freedom, but are those really the first things that come to their mind? Apparently, yes.

And so my next thought was, ‘What’s wrong with me?’

Pesach is supposed to be about freedom. It’s supposed to be about breaking out of our personal boundaries and experiencing things that are greater than ourselves. Pesach should be about living on a higher plane, serving Hashem in ways that might not seem logical because G-dliness is beyond logic and reason.

And yet, at the same time, Pesach is about going crumb-free. It’s the crunchiest diet of all the crunchies. Gluten free, sugar free, nearly-carb free, combined with good wine and mason jars. It has Park Slope written all over it! And that’s without all the cleaning. We’ve all experienced that ethereal moment, straddling the dining room chair, trying to separate the cushions with the strength of Superman while holding the vacuum hose at just the right angle, turning the vacuum on with one foot and rocking the baby carrier with the other. If that isn’t the picture of feminine beauty and spirituality then I don’t know what is.

Well, actually, I do. Because all this time that I’ve been waiting for the freedom of Pesach to encompass me, I’ve been oblivious to the fact that the work is mine. Pesach can be all the happy words only when I make the choice to make it so.

And I am.

I commit to making Pesach freedom for ME. And that looks like freedom from anxiety, freedom from routine and freedom from the bitterness of stress. Will I clean? Yes, I’ll clean. I’ll clean with the music on so that I can sing and dance along. One Kitchen Scrub with a shot of Endorphins, coming up. Will I shop? Yes, I’ll shop. I’ll grocery shop online (the perks of Crown Heights!) or I'll shop in parts or both. There is no mitzvah to spend two hours at the grocery trying to push a cart heavier than myself. Will I cook? Yes, I’ll cook. I’ll cook like I cook every other day of the year (minus the carb-truck): inventory the food in the house and mix and match recipes for fabulous results. Okay fine, I have some great Pesach recipes to follow. The real trick is reminding myself that Pesach is just a week long and I don’t need to have food prepped and waiting in the freezer from a week before, just because that’s what works for other people.

Pesach is about being free. I am choosing to free myself of past discomforts that I have associated with Pesach and instead make this Yom Tov into a joyous one like all the others. Pesach doesn’t have to look like stress. Pesach doesn’t have to feel like a burden.

I’m burning my lists with the chometz this year and I’m starting fresh. Funny how freedom for me is really freedom from me - the old me, the one who agonized over Pesach and spent too much time thinking about all the things I wouldn't be able to do instead of all the great things that I could do. The one who worried about how much work Pesach would be instead of how much fun Pesach could be. The one who didn't associate the good things with Pesach; not because experience taught me differently, but because I had yet to fully embrace the experience itself.

This article was first published for the Beis Medrash Women's Circle Pesach Freedom Book.

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