The first Seder this past Passover took place on a Saturday night. The timing forced us to be organized in order to complete all of our Passover preparations by Friday. The hope was that following the very early meal on Shabbat morning, everyone would be able to rest most of the day and come to the Passover Seder refreshed and ready to take on freedom.
Everything proceeded as planned. I climbed into bed early Shabbat afternoon, satisfied that I had a difficult situation under control. The house was immaculate -- every nook and crook overhauled, the four freezers and three refrigerators filled with holiday necessities and delights (products of 100 pounds of onions, 200 pounds of potatoes and 20 cases of eggs). The out-of-town guests were all satisfactorily situated. The tables were set in royal splendor. I could now relax and get some well-earned sleep.
No sooner did I shut my eyes than the weather turned violent.
"The best laid schemes o' mice and men,..." the poet wrote. No sooner did I shut my eyes than the weather turned violent. Strong winds raged. The house shook almost as though it was at risk of blowing away. I went downstairs to find our family and other members of the community huddled together discussing the situation.
It seemed that the winds had blown a transformer out of place and most of the families in the community were currently without electricity. Our non-Jewish neighbor informed us that the electric company had been inundated with calls and was thereby only accepting life-threatening inquiries.
How long could the food hold out without refrigeration? Surely that evening everything would still be fine, but what about the next day? What about the second Seder that we would be eating on Sunday night?
I have to admit that I had visions of refrigerators of spoiled food leaving us to eat only matzah by candlelight. The endless hours of toil passed before my eyes. Then, a calm settled over me. This must be a reality check, I thought.
I may have put in a lot of hours planning, organizing and lots of hard work, thinking I had everything under control. The Almighty was reminding me that although we may put forth our best effort, ultimately He is in charge. It is He who has to crown our endeavors with success. We have to invoke the adage "let go, let God."
As it happened, that evening, when the community, led by my husband the rabbi, entered a darkened the synagogue to usher in the Passover holiday, the power source was restored and the lights went on.
A SPIRITUAL METAPHOR
All of us are dependent on the virtual sea of technology that surrounds us -- refrigerators, stoves, ovens, freezers, air conditioners, etc. These are wonderful inventions, invaluable conveniences to modern living. But, they only work if they are connected to the source. A tiny crack in a transformer, a small break in the flow of current, renders thousands of appliances, and even life giving machines, useless.
This fact of our modern life serves as a useful spiritual metaphor. We too cannot function spiritually unless we are connected to our source -- God.
A woman named Shirley called me recently at the request of her daughter Amy, who took an unusual course in life following her graduation from college.
Shirley had fully expected that, like all her friends, Amy would find a job upon graduation and become a responsible and independent person, validating all of her parents' investments in her throughout all those years.
But Amy decided to take a year off to study Torah in Israel. Shirley was having a hard time dealing with the sad looks and sympathy of her contemporaries, who like herself, could not relate to this spiritual quest her daughter was undertaking in order to get back in touch with her Jewish roots -- her Torah legacy.
I shared with Shirley the understanding that, "man does not live by bread alone." It's true that a livelihood, financial resources, etc. are tremendous values, but they must be considered in the context of being connected to the Source.
Why eat? Why work? Indeed, why live? I assured her that based on my previous experience, Amy will reconnect her transformer, finding her own unique connection to the source of all endeavors, and in that context everything will, God willing, fall into place.
A SOURCE OF STRENGTH
A story is told about Rabbi Meir of Premishlan, a Jew of saintly stature. Even in his elderly years, he used to awaken in the predawn hours to prepare for his prayers and studies. He would make his way up steep hills and mountains to a tiny brook which served as his mikvah where he would immerse following the ritual of spiritual purification.
There were a number of young troublemakers in town, who in an attempt to hurt the Jewish community targeted this elderly, revered figure as their victim. They observed his comings and goings and decided that they would follow him up to the deserted mountain in the wee hours of the morning where they would jump him and give him a good beating.
They were unable to keep up with the old man.
They rose early and according to plan began following the rabbi. But to their amazement and frustration, they found themselves stumbling, tripping, and finding it increasingly difficult to keep up with him. Bruised and bloodied, they aborted their plans and waited for the rabbi to come down.
As he descended, they admitted their intentions to him and asked in total awe, how is it that they who were young and strong were falling and tripping, while he, an elderly man, demonstrated such unbelievable agility. The Rabbi smiled with the wisdom of years and responded, "If one is connected up above, one does not stumble and fall down here below."