The husband and wife sit beside each other but they may as well have been sitting continents apart. They asked to meet with me after a lecture to discuss their 'issues.' You could cut the tension in the air with a knife. They couldn't even look at each other. This couple who had brought children into this world and spent 13 years building a life together could now hardly tolerate breathing the same air.
“He forgot my birthday. Again. He comes home late and barely has anything to say to me or the kids.”
“She sits on her blackberry whenever we go out. I walk through the door and she acts uninterested. She puts me down in front of the children.”
“Let me ask you something,” I say to both of them. “Do you love each other? Do you want to make this work?”
There is silence. A moment passes. The quiet in the room is heavy and still.
“I do,” she finally replies. “I do want to make this work. But what about him? He needs to change.”
I see his jaw tighten. “I want to be married,” he says. “And I want our children to grow up in a home filled with love. But why am I the only one who must change? What about her?”
Is it possible to move on from this painful scene with a marriage still intact? Are both husband and wife destined to be chained to their hurts forever, unable to live together in peace?
This couple has been living through their own personal Egypt. Suffering and deeply disillusioned, how could the two ever exit this mess as one?
Removing the Chametz
Passover is coming. What is this holiday really all about? Why must we clean our homes out of all leaven, better known as chametz, before the Passover holiday begins?
On the eve before the Seder, we conduct a search by candlelight. We scour every nook and cranny, scout high and low, and rummage through drawers and under beds, making sure that we have rid our homes of any morsels of chametz.
After the search is done, we say a prayer:
“Any type of leaven that may still be in my possession, that I have not seen or removed, or that I do not know about, let it be considered nullified and ownerless, like the dust of the earth.”
The next morning all of the remaining leaven in the house is taken outside and burned, including any leaven found on the search the night before. We throw the chametz into the flames and approach Passover chametz-free.
We need to search through the nooks and crannies of our hearts and be totally honest with ourselves.
The holiday carries incredible spiritual energy. It is not only the physical chametz that we must get rid of and burn. If we want to genuinely experience the freedom that Passover brings, we begin by eradicating the negative traits that have weighed us down. Our ‘spiritual chametz’ are the flaws that have damaged our relationships and hindered us from connecting with others and with God. We are charged with searching through the nooks and crannies of our hearts and being totally honest with ourselves:
Am I self centered?
Am I unforgiving?
Am I sarcastic and negative?
Am I easily angered?
Our bodies are homes to our souls. Passover brings us strength and opportunity to clean out and start fresh.
But there is one trait that prevents us from our ‘spiritual soul cleansing.’
Bread vs. Matzah
Bread, which rises, represents the individual whose arrogance has gotten the better of him. This is the person who thinks he does no wrong. He is constantly higher and superior. He believes that the fault always lies with the other person.
"My wife is a nag, my husband is impossible, my children are difficult, my boss is insane, and my mother in law drives me crazy." Funny how the fault is never found with ‘me.’
In order to exit our own personal Egypt and come to taste the freedom of Passover, we must liberate ourselves from the character flaws that weigh us down. We can do this by taking in the lesson of the matzah.
When we face our faults honestly and recognize our shortcomings, we can begin the process of ‘soul cleansing.’
Flat and unassuming, matzah teaches us to be humble. Humility is the key to purging ourselves of the spiritual chametz that has settled within our hearts. When we are able to face our faults honestly and recognize our shortcomings, we can genuinely begin the process of ‘soul cleansing.’
Getting Rid of the Crumbs
“Listen,” I say to the couple. “You both want to make this work. That’s great. But you both want to make this work by telling the other that they are responsible. Marriage takes hard work and dedication, but it must be your work, your dedication. By simply making lists of all your complaints and throwing the onus of change on your spouse, you will have accomplished nothing. It is arrogant to believe that it is only your spouse who is at fault. We need to speak about how each of you can bring love and peace back into this marriage.”
For the first time that night, husband and wife looked at each other and smiled.
"So where do we begin?” she asked.
“Passover gives us the key,” I replied. “Do you know that before Passover begins, we need to empty out our pockets from all the tiny crumbs that may have settled there?
Tonight, we are going to empty out our pockets. You have been carrying around these small hurts, these crumbs that have settled inside of you. Let’s let go and start anew. Then we'll speak about what it is that each one of you can do to build trust and understanding. But first you must forgive and let go. Isn’t that what love is all about?”
This Passover, let’s give ourselves the gift of freedom. Free yourself of all those negative traits that have weighed you down. Approach the day with the humility to listen to those you have loved but hurt. Search every nook and cranny of your heart and rid yourself of the spiritual chametz that has allowed you to disconnect. Empty your pockets of those annoying crumbs. It is time to leave Egypt and enter the Promised Land.