How do I know if it’s Passover time? My nails are chipped, the skin on my hands is cracked and bleeding, the kitchen smells like Easy Off and my books shelves are weighted down by about 30 boxes of matzah (18 hand and 12 machine if anyone cares!) The chametz is out of my kitchen, my cleaned cabinets are covered with notes about freedom, my freezer is full of meat and new recipes to try scatter my counter. Everyone is rushing madly to see if their perfume is kosher, my boys are getting haircuts and I am reiterating my Grinch-like “no present for the afikomen” policy (I know, wrong holiday!).
But those are not the only signs. I also know that Passover is around the corner because spring is in the air, even in California! Actually especially in California where it has been an unusually cold winter. There are buds on the trees, the flowers are blooming and, since the drought is now officially over, the grass is green once again. The world is opening up to a fresh start, to a new beginning.
It is not a coincidence that Passover occurs simultaneously with the advent of spring. Rather, it is built into the creation. In order that we would feel this renewed sense of hope awakening, of our lives unfurling, of new potential, the Almighty created the holiday of Passover in the springtime. It had to happen this way. It’s part of the elegant structure of the universe where no detail is left to chance. The Almighty is the Interior Designer par excellence.
This setup allows our experience of the outside world to reinforce our inner spiritual experience. It’s not easy to stop and introspect. It’s not easy to try to examine all the ways in which we are enslaved, to look with a clear and ruthless eye at the obstacles we have created for ourselves, to acknowledge the ways in which our own egos hamper our relationship with the Almighty. And since it’s not easy, we may try to avoid it. We busy ourselves with the shopping and the cooking and the cleaning (all crucial activities of course) and ignore the thinking (unless it’s about which brisket recipe to try).
We rationalize that we don’t have time. Or we don’t even let those niggling concerns surface. We push them back down, scrubbing our floors but not our souls. I would personally rather organize my cupboards than look at the ways in which I still need to grow, the ways in which I have not yet achieved full freedom, the lacks in my service of the Almighty and the weaknesses in my faith. Much easier to bleach my counters and make another batch of brownies.
I mean, of course, we would like to do the work on our souls, make the spiritual effort, but we’ve having 20, 30, 50 people for our Seders. The numbers may not increase in inverse proportion to our efforts at spiritual growth but they may certainly be a distraction – or even a competition!
This year I don’t want to make that mistake. I’m trying to make my meals simpler and my thoughts deeper. I can’t resist that new baked apple with charoset ice cream recipe but I also want to read that new Hagadah that focuses on faith, on trust, on the missing or weak elements in my relationship with my Creator. They say that Passover is the New Year of Our Faith.
It is an opportunity to take my trust in the Almighty to another level. It’s a chance to understand what faith in God really means and to internalize the concept through the experience of the Seder. I’m sure I’ll still make my pineapple kugels and cabbage soup but perhaps as I do it (especially these recipes that I know by heart!) I can do more than cook (I’m not putting down the cooking – the physical preparations are crucial to the day, just not the sum total of the necessary expectations!).
This year I want to capitalize on the moment and let the sun of the spring shine on my soul, warts and all. Then maybe I can really be free.
Pass those Passover biscotti please…