I had carpal tunnel surgery right before Passover. Thank God it wasn’t serious. It wasn’t open-heart surgery and when they asked me about advanced health directives, I actually laughed. For carpal tunnel? As nervous as I was (and just ask my family, I was nervous!), I never imagined it was life-threatening. And thank God it wasn’t.

The staff at the hospital couldn’t have been nicer; the procedure couldn’t have gone smoother (although the doctor did mention that it took him 14 minutes instead of 13). But I came home with my wrist immobilized, my right hand useless – right before Passover! What possessed me!?

I have my excuses – we belong to an HMO and I had to take the appointment available (I’ve been in pain for a while and waiting even longer) but mostly when the doctor told me pre-surgery that I would be able to use my hand afterwards as long as it didn’t hurt, I never imagined what he meant was I could curl my fingers from the knuckle down. I envisioned cooking!

While you can’t keep a “girl who likes to do” down, I had to acknowledge my limitations. I couldn’t cut, I couldn’t cook, I couldn’t lift, I couldn’t brush my hair or tie my shoes or do much of anything – for the first few days anyway. Did I mention I couldn’t cook? Some people might look at that as a blessing. No cooking?! Count me in! And I am blessed. My daughters pitched in and really made everything. I really appreciated their effort.

But I was in pain. Not physical pain; emotional pain. It was so hard for me to sit still. I like to do. I like to be productive. I like to feel a sense of accomplishment. I like to serve food that I cooked. (And yes, I like the compliments!) This Passover I couldn’t do. I could only be.

And I knew that, much as I chafed against it, this was my chance to grow this year. I have always defined myself by my doing. Now I had to look at my being. And it was very uncomfortable.

First I had to accept that I was in a position of dependence. I couldn’t eat if someone else didn’t prepare it for me. I couldn’t get dressed without help. I couldn’t type articles, emails or texts. I couldn’t even open the bottle of Tylenol with codeine without help. Of course the lesson of dependence on human beings always teaches about our dependence on the Almighty. I know it’s true that when we can accomplish on our own, sometimes we forget Who’s really in charge. In the scheme of things, it was a relatively painless reminder (compared to the plagues that communicated the same message to the Egyptians).

And secondly, I had to stop defining myself by what I did. Even though I had always scorned the idea that a career defined the essence of a human being and mocked the classic cocktail party answer to the question of “What do you do?” which always involved a job description, I found myself hostage to the same issue. Who was I if I couldn’t cook for Passover, if it wasn’t “my” brownies on the table, if I was too drugged from the medication to share “my” insights? I had to dig deeper. I had to focus on the internals, not the externals. Don’t I tell people to do that all the time? Wasn’t that part of the goal of the Passover cleaning? Shining that flashlight inward is not so comfortable but it does help with the refocus.

Luckily my time as a semi-invalid was brief. Within days I was shopping and schlepping and running on the treadmill. Only the cooking and lifting lagged behind. Within days I was back to myself. Or was I? I hope not. I hope I took the lessons to heart. I hope I grew from the experience. I hope I embraced my dependence on the Almighty and renewed my self-definition in spiritual terms. I hope I don’t have to endure another medical procedure next Passover to make sure I internalize these ideas!