Recognizing the Miracles in our Midst

The kids got into the car yesterday morning, exclaiming about having pizza Saturday night after Passover ended.

At the kosher pizza shop, there was an auction to see who got the first pizza post-Pesach. Apparently it went for something like $300.

After they finished their story, I said matter-of-factly, “You know, Passover is just one week. One week. It starts every year and it ends, too. And we’re just talking about food. We can go without bread for a week.”

The hubbub surrounding food in the Jewish world at this time of year is incredible. It’s like my first Yom Kippur in an orthodox synagogue. Halfway through the day, during the break in prayer services, we emerged into the 70-degree sunny afternoon and sat outside, soaking up sun. Instead of noticing how beautiful the day was, how miraculous and peaceful and reverent the birds singing in nearby trees or the fact that we were amongst our brethren in reverent worship, the conversation focused on, you guessed it, food.

Take something away, and it’s all we can focus on.

On the one day of the year when we come together communally to fast as atonement for our sins of the prior year, we think, talk and agonize over food. It’s one day. We will eat again. Lord knows we will eat again, and in our society of abundance, surely we can go without food for a single day.

The same goes for this week-long holiday of Passover. Lock your cupboards and hide away the noodles and bread. Feast on fruits and vegetables and meats and fish, get back to whole foods as we reflect on leaven and rising as symbols for arrogance. Find meaning in the moment.

But no, we must lament the absence of pizza. And lasagna. And sandwiches.

Really?

A friend sends an email every week about the Torah reading and his interpretation of it. Last week, when he sent his email about the last days of Passover, I reveled in what he had to say. Here’s an excerpt:

“It is a central tenet of our faith that we cannot truly or fully rejoice and not be mindful of the suffering of others. The Midrash has God scolding the angels who are rejoicing at the triumph over Egypt. ‘How dare you sing for joy when My creatures are dying?’ Oh, if only the world shared that view.”

“How often do we hear or see actual rejoicing (singing, dancing and giving out candy) in some quarters when Jewish blood is spilled, when streets and town squares are named for those who would kill Jews? Yet it is the Jewish tradition to spill wine out when recalling the plagues visited upon Egypt. Innocents suffered because of their ruler’s intransigence and our joy is diminished. I am never prouder to be a Jew than when I hear the steps that Israel goes to in protecting the  human life of its sworn enemies, sometimes even risking its own soldiers’ lives, when it is forced to defend itself.”

“This is what it means to be a Jew—to recognize the miracles around us, to be mindful of the needs of others as we are all God’s creatures, and to be proactive in following God’s ways.”

Thank you! These words touched my heart and reverberated in my soul.

This holiday just past is not about doing without or trudging our way through a week of dry, stale matzah and wishing for it to end so we could eat our normal foods. It’s not about sitting around and feasting on the foods allowed to us during the holiday.

Passover, like every holiday we celebrate in this religion and every other religion, is about finding meaning in our midst.

It’s about stopping and shutting out the workaday woes and instead focusing on raising our gaze to a higher place, a place where meaning resides and we see what is really important.

I don’t know about you, but I get easily sidetracked when I’m too focused on work and the usual get-it-done schedule. So I welcome the breathing room that a holiday insists upon to get my vision right.

That’s what it’s about, people. Not agonizing over constipating foods. (Metaphor wholly intended.)

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