Monday, April 14, 2014

There Are Two Passovers


Erev Pesach
14 Nisan, 5774
April 14th, 2014

There are really two Passovers. Seriously. They are connected to each other by a single strong thread, but Passover is actually two holidays.

The first holiday is a celebration of freedom. Everybody loves this holiday. Who doesn’t love freedom? It’s an easy sell.

The second Passover is a week-long spiritual fast from one substance: hametz – any grain that underwent leavening: for all intents and purposes, bread. 
This holiday is less popular. I can’t imagine why.

The two are connected by one shared symbol: matzah.

Every year, Passover #2 gets a bad rap. Some complain about all the work we’ll need to do. Some sneer at the idea that not eating bread somehow makes a person holy. I have done both.

This year, a friend of mine suggested that I ditch the kashering* and come join him for a pretty exciting opportunity. I was surprised to realize that I didn’t want to. It wasn’t that I had to clean; it was the realization that preparing for that second Pesach is some of the holiest work I’ll do all year.

The first generation to leave Egypt knew what it was to gain freedom. Every bite of that tasteless, over-baked bread told them that they were free. The first generation always possesses the coal of lived experience, and that fire lasts them their entire lives.

We who come after have to work to remember that we’re free. The material comfort of our lives make us complacent; complacency is the enemy of consciousness; we begin to confuse the world as it is now with the world as it must be.

Cleaning for Passover, not eating hametz – these are the ways I tell myself that my world can be changed, and that it takes work to do so. When I dig my hands into the soapy water to clean, when I change the way I eat for a week, I remind myself that nothing is as fixed as it seems, nor do I have to accept it as such. I remind myself that I am free, and I teach myself that I have the strength it takes to work for that freedom – as we all do.

In Judaism, freedom is an obligation. It seems like such a paradox, “I am commanded to be free.” But the mitzvah** to become free speaks to a deep truth. Freedom is not a synonym for vacation; it is the hard-won realization that the world can, and sometimes must change, and that we should be the ones to change it. And every year, it is a responsibility in which I find more and more joy.

“In each and every generation, a person is obligated to see herself as if she personally left Egypt.” (Talmud Pesachim 115b)

*the process of making a kitchen kosher

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