Here’s a question I received from my dear friend and fellow reader:
Q: So, tell me, what am i supposed to learn from Passover? How does it apply to my unorthodox life? The holidays fill me with confusion.
Do I answer this question with a Pollyannish response? It’s blissful, and wonderful! You’re supposed to learn how to be grateful for not being a slave, that you have a voice part of a collective history that entitles you the right to arduous Spring cleaning, over-priced Judaic stores, and savorless Matzoh Meal recipes. Or do I tell her the truth that it is difficult and that many feel interrupted as a result of having to stop their month to eat a hard cracker like constipating tasteless non-pita for 8 days?
Judaism is filled with do’s and don’ts, with haves and have nots, laws and sins, resentments and bliss.
Recently I’ve been getting inundated by attitudes that look like these proclamations:
“That’s it, I’m done. Religion is for the stupid misguided. I want nothing to do with it, I’m bugging out.”
Which made me realize this reality: Judaism is what we make of it. As everything else in life, we choose to enjoy it or hate it, to celebrate it or begrudge it, to be enlightened by it or become despondent because of it. If it is one thing we can learn from this holiday it is this: We are a people with the right to choose. If we’ve been hurt by it, we may decide to become disheartened. If it has worked for us, then we might take the other attitude, but ultimately it is our own choice how we decide to celebrate Passover which arrives on March 29th whether we like it or not.
We have the right to decide that we are going to take ownership of it on our own terms, without any one else’s misguided agenda even if we wake up from childhood nightmares of screaming matches over dining room tables where red beet juice has been hauled at one another during a family reunion gone bad. What if we learn to find the excitement and opportunity in it, rather than the exhausting feeling of guilt that as a result of us not celebrating because we don’t know how, or celebrating because of other’s expectations, or resentfully celebrating because we don’t know how else not to, we take ownership of it and seize the opportunity?
This is the one time in the year we have the opening to tap into “FREE” energy. Its as if the Divine Spirit opened a portal to the acknowledgment that we have a right to fight for equality and justice. This is the holiday that celebrates a moral code of right between wrong, of principles and human values that all men are created equal and that no one has the right to enslave another for his own power trip. We are all free people.
This was the event in history that determined future conflicts escalating over human rights with myriads of wars and many new regimes all struggling to become the head of human empowerment throughout the years.
This very holiday is the answer to the world that democracy is the only choice. This holiday that we share bitter herbs to remind us of the pain we’ve endured to get to this free day, Matzoh to remind us of the Jewish people’s rush to reclaim their freedom, and the Pascal Lamb to remind us of the attitude of gratitude we must have for G-d lifting us out of the torturous Egyptian hell with his might and fury and miracles is the one holiday we should relish in partaking in. And not just because it is the coolest story in history, but because it is our story and our contribution to humanity. Whether we are orthodox or not, we all have the right to be grateful and to participate in the narrative of liberation, independence, and the right to choose sanctity over corruption.
And to my friend who prompted this essay and was brave enough to ask this question….keep asking your questions, you have a right to them.
Oh, and Seder’s at 8.