Jewdaho: Pesach and Purification

Next year in the Holy Land, next year in Jerusalem. This is what we say, leapfrogging off Purim and into two nights of intense lounging, heavy drinking, treasure hunts, and lots and lots of sitting. Pesach is a celebration of miracles, heroes, redemption, triumph of good over evil, and divine prowess. Our God, 1. Your gods, 0.

The Pesach story is of slavery and escape from Egypt, crisis of faith in the desert, and delivery to the Land of Israel. God’s gift to us, as the Chosen People. I wonder if we would have been so psyched to accept such a gift if we knew that God was also going to give Israel to everyone else on the planet. And then make them all hate us. “If God had only left us in a nice unassuming cave that nobody could find and hadn’t led us into the land flowing with milk and honey and drama…”

Next year in Jerusalem. But what about right now, this second? We pray for something that is somewhere else, somewhere in the future, when something external and beyond our control happens. This year we are slaves, next year we will be free. What are we slaves to? Freedom from what? And what are we supposed to do until the youth-group kids can’t be blamed for the empty Elijah’s cup, as we are ushered into a messianic age?

The story of Pesach is basically a story of darkness into light, with the final destination being way, way further down the hot, blazing, unforgiving desert road than you initially thought. In contrast, springtime is the season for renewal, rebirth, and abundance, and our Seder plate ornately displays lamb from the field, fruit from the trees, and a ceremonial ova. The time of year when Persephone returns to the arms of Demeter is always cause for celebration–whether it’s honored by dancing around a Maypole, hunting for chocolate eggs, or hunting for bagel dust on your hands and knees so you can spend five hours nibbling on garnish.

Cleansing the home is a big part of Pesach ritual. Every bread crumb, Twinkie, carb is banished from the kitchen. Spring cleaning. But a purification ritual is a purification ritual, and who can’t benefit from that once a year?

I’ve been thinking a lot about emotional spring cleaning; how spring is as good a time as any to take your emotional and spiritual temperature. What still has you in shackles? Do you have your bearings in the vast desert? How might you want this night, any night, to be different and sacred? And, the magic fourth question, what are you going to do about it?
Me, I’m catching up on my to-do list as a means of sweeping out the cupboards. And as a gardener, I’m very hopeful and excited at the concept of rebirth. I poke around my flower garden for early signs of life, while heirloom tomato seedlings thrive in my mud room (yay!). Whatever you do to clear your headspace, reflect on long journeys, or triumph over times of bondage and suffering leading to enlightenment, don’t wait until next year to do it. Make this year the year you create your own holy land, in your own holy places, while giving thanks for the chance to do anything at all. Dayeinu.

–Nancy Goodman