The Passover Story: Release from Constraint

The Jewish holiday of Passover begins tomorrow night (Wednesday, April 8th) at sunset. It celebrates the Israelites’ going free from Egyptian bondage, and is one of the most important holidays of the Jewish year. Yet there is another layer of meaning in the exodus from Egypt, that is apparent when one looks at the Hebrew. “Egypt”, in Hebrew, is mitzrayim, which comes from the root meaning “narrow” (presumably because Egypt was a long narrow country settled around the  Nile river). Yet from this same root, comes another word tzarot, or the more familiar Yiddish, tzurres, meaning “troubles.” The idea is that when one is that troubles constrain one in narrow places. When one comes out of troubled times, one is released from the tightness.

There is a long tradition in Judaism of looking at the going forth from Egypt (mitzrayim) as symbolic of coming out of troubles. It is a metaphor that has been often used around depression and other emotional troubles. It has also been used to symbolize economically hard times. For all of these, Passover serves as a reminder that there is the hope of release from bondage, whatever form that bondage takes for us.

This year, many of us are very aware of the economic contraints we find ourselves in. Others are dealing with sadness from family situations. All in all, there are a lot of us who are feeling beset by our problems at the moment. We struggle with worries about what the future will bring, and sadness over opportunities lost.

Passover is the opportunity for us to assert that redemption from our problems is possible. Coming in the spring, it is a holiday of rebirth, reminding us that even though we may feel trapped at the instant, new life is beginning, new opportunities constantly presenting themselves. Whether we find the message of a Divine force who liberates us from our troubles comforting or whether we see that as a fairytale we cannot believe in, the holiday itself celebrates the ability for humans to overcome obstacles. Whether we view God or Moses as the liberator, we can celebrate liberation.

For me, this year in particular, Passover serves as a reminder that troubles are surmountable. For me it is a reminder that we are able to overcome obstacles and barriers. That there are forces in the universe which help us accomplish things we believe we cannot do. I call those forces God. Others refer to those forces as “luck”, or “friends”, or “the universe.” The words we use do not so much matter as does the fact that we acknowledge that sometimes life is too challenging for us to fix by ourselves, yet solutions may appear when we most need them.

May this Passover  season be one of rebirth of hope and of freedom. May we all go from bondage to liberation, and help others to make the same journey. The Israelites did not leave Egypt as individuals, but as a mixed multitude 600,000 strong. Together, let us all go forth.

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Life’s Full

Life feels busier than normal recently. A few of the measures:

  • I’m not posting here as much as I have been recently.
  • I realized yesterday that it had been weeks since I’d been over to Ravelry.
  • I feel like I’m constantly running behind.

So where is all of my time going?

A few items I have been doing a little more of recently:

  • Gardening. The seeds have sprouted, and many have been transplanted. Also, as I mentioned last week (I think), I got the front yard cleaned up.
  • Passover: Getting stuff ready for the congregational seder last Sunday took more time and energy than I expected, somehow.
  • Preparing for Weddings. The summer wedding season is coming up, and I’ve been meeting with 1 – 3 couples a week in preparation for upcoming weddings.
  • CubeSpace. We’re getting ready for a big open house on May 14, and trying to get the word out about that.

In between all of this, I’ve been doing a little knitting, trying to keep my sanity in place. I’ve concentrated my knitting on a single project for a while now, since I felt like I wasn’t seeing any progress on anything while splitting my time between my 4 projects. I’ve been working on Eva’s socks, and am finally up to the ribbing on the first sock (it’s a toe-up design). I switched to the magic loop method of knitting recently, and am finding it nice, especially in terms of not losing stitches off the needles when I shove them in my pockets.

In a nutshell, that’s life of the last week or so.

Thoughts on Passover

I’m trying to get into a Passover mindset, but I’m really having trouble with it this year. Eva and I have been so swamped we haven’t really done much about cleaning out the house. All of a sudden, we realized yesterday that seder was in 2 days (first seder is Saturday night). And we hadn’t begun to make plans yet. So, over IM, we planned a very simple seder menu in about 20 minutes. I’ll probably test drive the congregational seder service for Sunday night at our home on Saturday night. Somehow, it all feels a little ignored.

But. . .there is also something about it that feels distinctly right. The seder is suppose to recall the exodus from Egypt, which took place in a great rush, as the Israelites departed in a great hurry, hoping to get out while the getting was good. “They left with the clothes on their back. . .” Somehow, this last minute scurrying in some ways feels reminiscent of that original event.

Most years, preparation for a seder means days of cleaning, followed by days of cooking. It was surely the case that this is not what refugees fleeing in the night did. There were no elaborate plans, simply a need to move quickly and get out.

This year we will celebrate the Passover seder with a minimum of fuss and bother. We will have a few friends join us, and we will celebrate the freedom we have. We often think of that freedom in terms of freedom to practice religion, but in modern America, it is perhaps worth noting that it is also freedom not to practice religion, or to practice it in a way which feels appropriate at a given time.

For all you who are about to celebrate Passover: May it be a wonderful holiday, filled with exactly the significance you need it to have this year.

Fighting the Urge to Cast On

I am a somewhat distractible person. Well not necessarily someone who feels the need to constantly run after new and shiny things, I can certainly be, ummm, how shall I say this. . .sidetracked from my main focus. It should, then, come as no surprise that I am something of a polyamorous knitter. Unfortunately, the more projects I have going at once, the more slowly they all progress (isn’t that just the oddest coincidence?).

Passover is coming up, and I find myself wanting to cast on a few new seasonal projects: a matzah cover (a ceremonial cloth envelope into which the matzah is placed during the Passover seder). It’s not that big. . .can’t be much more than 12 inches to a side. . .that’s barely bigger than a swatch. . .I’m sure I could whip out something in the next week or so. . .

But no. I have 4 active projects (well, 3 active projects and the second sock of a pair that hasn’t been cast on yet). That’s really enough for the moment.

Someone recently suggested I knit a cover for my rabbi’s manual, since the paper slip cover it came with is beginning to show “signs of wear” (read: it is becoming increasingly shredded). It’s  small book, how long could it take?

Again, restraint. If I keep adding projects, I’ll never finish the projects I’m working on. And so, I continue to work onward on a shawl, a bedspread, and two pairs of socks. To the exclusion of any other projects that might look interesting.