For the last two nights, we’ve sat around a finely laid table, discussing issues of freedom and slavery. Every year, Jews are instructed to retell the Passover story, the Exodus from Egypt, the exit from enslavement to freedom. And every year, we are instructed to feel as though we ourselves had been enslaved, and we ourselves had become free.
My kids are old enough now to have deeper conversations – though we still jump around the room like frogs, in memory of the Plagues. But this year, we talked about how we enslave ourselves today (worrying about what others think, women and body image, being a slave to extracurricular activities) and how we are free.
We talked about whether we mean it when we say, let all who are hungry come and eat. And we talked about how poverty comes in many forms, not just the literal one, but in the poverty of spirit and of emotion, the kid at school who just wants acceptance, the kid at school who just wants friends.
For many, this holiday is its own form of enslavement: you can’t eat a million things, you have to scrub your house to the point of gleaming to ensure that not even a crumb of leavened anything remains. That is an aspect I tried to let go but somehow, the mania of Passover caught me in its grip regardless.
For two days, and several days prior, we did little else but cook and grocery-shop and look at the materials to make sure it would be a lively discussion. And then we sat at the table until late both nights, talking and connecting and eating way too much.
It’s no wonder I am exhausted today. It’s just a holiday but it’s no holiday – the intensity of emotion and of thought take a lot out of you – at least out of me.
Perhaps it’s that I’m getting older and the mantle of responsibility for creating an inspiring observance falls on me. I’m no longer the frolicking kid strategizing with my cousins on how to steal the Afikoman and how to negotiate its return to end the very-long dinner.
Now, I’m the grown-up, leading my people out of slavery, opening their minds to a new possibility of life in a free land, of choice, of free movement, of thought. It’s a heavy mantle, but a worthy one.