Category Archives: Pesach

show and tell: two things

(It’s been a little while since I’ve done a show and tell.  Gettin’ back in the groove, now.)

This show and tell is brought to you by the society of two things that have nothing to do with each other.

The first thing:  So on Sunday I was walking La Famosa and I came upon something interesting floating in a puddle.  I looked around to see if it might belong to anybody, but, alas, we were all alone on that street, no other soul around.  So, I took it home, rinsed it off (it was already wet), and took this photo so you could wish that you had found one just like it:

The second thing:  This is maybe my favorite funny video of all time.  It’s been around a couple of years, so you may have seen it.  Pesach (passover) started on Monday night, so in the spirit of the season (and with a warning that there is one NSFW word), I bring you:

seder report

Well, I was pleasantly surprised.

I left at midnight, before the afikomen was found (basically the end of the seder).  We all showed up at 7 but things didn’t get started until about 8.  We started the meal portion of the seder about 10:45 or 11 (things are fuzzy to me at that point).  Before going, I had discussed with a couple of people some of my anxieties, and my expectations about how long things would last.  Well, it was really a lot of fun, and I only wish that things had moved a bit more quickly toward eating (I did eat before I went, but by 11 I was starving again).  I met some interesting people (maybe friend potential?) and was generally pleased by the evening.

One thing I noticed was that it was assumed that I was a Jew-by-birth.  I think that I go around (in Jew-y type settings anyway) believing that I’ve practically got a big sign on my forehead that says, “JEW BY CHOICE.”  Well, I guess I don’t.  I got a couple of comments/questions about “growing up learning Hebrew,” etc. (we had some good talks about language acquisition—one of my favorite topics to geek out on) and it really surprised me.  I just said, “I didn’t grow up learning Hebrew,” and I think that was just taken to mean that my family just wasn’t very observant.  I would have been happy to clarify, but the conversation went as conversations go when there’s a bunch of gregarious people in the room, and the opportunity seemed to have passed, and it didn’t seem like I needed to announce to the room, “I CONVERTED.”*  There were two women there who seem to have some friend potential, so we’ll see how that goes.

All in all, I went home really happy, though really tired, and now I’m trying to finish paperwork for the job (can’t you tell how hard I’m working?).  I have in my head that little voice saying, “You shouldn’t be working on the 1st day of Pesach…”** but I am exercising my freedom (it is zman heruteinu—the time of our freedom—after all) and am choosing to be Jewish in the way that works best for me right now, and not for my warden Mr. X.

Definitely a different beginning to Pesach than last year.

Chag Pesach sameach.  Happy Passover.

*Um, run-on sentence much?

**The first two and last two days of Pesach/Passover are considered “chag” or “holiday” and Jews more observant than myself refrain from doing a number of things, including working.

out of my groove

My posting groove that is.  I kind of got in a blogging funk and can’t seem to get back into it.  Sunday night I had a good idea for a post, but for some reason I thought, “Oh, I’ll write it tomorrow,” and of course Monday came and all my gumption went out the door.

I’m also not doing ICLW this month, as the last few months my participation has fallen between “mediocre” and “a joke.”  I think, though, that it helps motivate me a bit, so I’ll try to get back on that next month.

Passover is next week.  I will be going to a seder—cue surprised reaction.  Surprised reaction, because, well, I’ll be voluntarily going to a religious event in an intimate setting (around the dinner table) that will last hours with mostly people I’ve never met.  When I told my friend Cherry I was going, and whose seder it was, she gave me the sage advice pertinent to seder-goers everywhere, “Eat before you go.”  “Why?” you may ask.  Well, they made a movie a while back with the seder as the theme—the title, When Do We Eat? , should tell you…seders can be long, and the people leading mine are champs of the long seder.  Hence, I’ll be having a hearty snack before I head to their house on Monday night.

At some point, I’ll write a post that takes a little more thought.  Hopefully I’ll get my blogging groove back soon.  Maybe I’ll do a question/answer post…what do you think?

Pesach flashback #3: freedom time

♦I have just a few more thoughts about Pesach that didn’t really fit anywhere else, but I didn’t want to neglect them.   I also wanted to wrap up these Pesach flashbacks before the next Jewish holiday, Shavuot (Pentecost), which starts, um, tonight.  Nothing like getting it in under the wire.  I’m kind of looking at this as my omer project.  (The omer is the period of time–49 days–between the 2nd day of Pesach and Shavuot.)

♦The first Jewish holiday I celebrated was Pesach (when I was first learning about Judaism).  I was totally overwhelmed.  Totally.  Nobody told me that I should eat BEFORE going to the seder (because we wouldn’t actually get to the food for hours), and nobody told me that we would be there until well after midnight.  Like I said, totally overwhelmed.

♦I became Jewish on Rosh Chodesh (first of the month) of Nisan.  (Nisan is the month in which Pesach occurs.)  So, the first holiday I celebrated as a Jew was Pesach, as well as the first holiday I celebrated while just learning about Judaism.  Now also the first holiday after getting my own freedom, my own voice.

♦Pesach is called zman heruteinu–the time of our freedom.  It celebrates when we went from slavery to freedom.  I believe I will be celebrating my journey to freedom, which began at Pesach-time for the rest of my life.  The haggadah tells us that we are commanded to tell the story of the Exodus as though each of us were personally liberated from Egypt, from Mitzrayim, from the narrow place.  I have been.  And I will.

♦Now, on to Shavuot, which with its being known as the “converts’ holiday” (for it’s connection to Ruth, the convert), and focus on dairy foods (mmmmmm, dairy…), is also a big favorite of mine.  Chag sameach!

ETA:  Many apologies for the non-user friendly nature of this post.  I’ll try to be more careful in the future.

Pesach flashback #2: spring cleaning

I’ve talked about Pesach (Passover) a bit before, and these thoughts about chametz (leaven) have been rattling around my mind ever since, well, ever since I packed up and left.  As I said before, when I was packing up and leaving was the time when I would normally be preparing the house for Pesach.  Said like that, one doesn’t really get the significance of the task.  Suffice it to say, there are many jokes made about going back into slavery in the days and weeks before Pesach in order to get our homes ready to celebrate our freedom from slavery.  Ha, ha, ha.  Jendeis has a good description of her what her Pesach prep entails.  Pesach prep in my house with Mr. X was generally a little more intense than her list portrays, and every year he would change what level of cleaning he was comfortable with (so some years were definitely harder than others), but her post should give you an idea if you are interested.  Basically–clean everything really well, use different dishes, kasher (make kosher–often means boiling) utensils or other items that are able to be kashered.  Clean entire house of any crumbs of food, etc.

This year, around the time that I would normally start planning out the cleaning schedule, I was figuring out if I was going to leave my husband or not, so my regular Pesach concerns were kind of out the window.  At the same time, I was aware of the time of year and that I wasn’t making those plans.  So during the time that I would normally be vacuuming under the couch cushions for crumbs, and scrubbing out the cabinets, and ridding the house of all foods with chametz in them, I was instead deciding what items I was going to take with me in my Great Escape.

I already made the connections to the journey out of Egypt elsewhere.  The actual preparation for the journey, however…as I said above, I was very aware of the time frame in the Jewish calendar, and somewhere between the subconscious and the conscious I knew that this packing, this preparing to leave, this was my Pesach preparation.

So what is chametzChametz is leavened bread, bread (or bread products) that have been allowed to rise.  Spiritually, chametz has been likened to pride, anger, even death.  Traditionally, one is to literally burn the last bit of chametz in possession before Pesach begins.

After I knew I would have to leave, in the few days before X left for his out of town trip that would give me the opportunity to escape, I found myself looking at all of the things around the house, and I realized I could leave them all.  I realized it didn’t matter at all, all of this accumulation that had seemed so important just a few months before.  If I had to, I could have walked away with nothing.

I didn’t walk away with nothing, but I took very little.  Just today I spoke with my homeowners’ insurance company.  I almost laughed when they asked about my possessions at my current residence.  The things I took fit in my car’s trunk and the back of my mom’s truck (cover closed), with room to spare.  If I hadn’t brought Miss Famous and her varied necessities, my trunk would have been empty.

I hadn’t realized how cathartic it would be to go through my things and say, “No, no, no.”  No, I’m in too many photos with X in that outfit, no, I’ve always hated that shirt.  No, I’m not bringing any of this, any of that, thank you, but no.  And it felt like with every item I left behind, I was freeing myself a little more, stripping off the chains one link at a time.

And it didn’t stop with the physical items.  It seemed in those days that I was literally breathing him out of my body, sweating him out, crying him out.  All of those years that I was pushed into a smaller and smaller space with fewer and fewer choices, all of those insinuating sighs and cruel words–I sloughed them off with my skin.  This was my chametz:  the daily dying that comes with needs deferred too, too long, the deep wound of a love returned by hate, the exhaustion of avoiding unavoidable landmines.  This was the year I started seeking out and burning the chametz.

Pesach Flashback #1–coming out of the narrow place

I said that I had a lot to say about Pesach, still, and that I would keep saying it, so here goes, I guess.

So Pesach (Passover) celebrates our redemption from slavery in Egypt.  The name for Egypt in Hebrew is Mitzrayim, which literally means “narrow place.”

How interesting that the place of our communal slavery takes the name of a narrow place–a place where you can’t move freely, a place where you might feel trapped on both sides.

When I was with Mr. X, it seemed like so much of my life was spent walking a balance beam.  There was no room to stretch out to the right or to the left.   Everyday my focus was first on him–his mood would determine more than anything else how my day would go.  I was always on edge, constantly looking out for situations that might tip his fragile balance.

And yet I told myself how fortunate I was to have found my “soulmate.”  He would give me just enough to have me believe I was happy, or at least that if there was a problem, it was with me.  At least, he used to do that.  The last few months were the last few months precisely because I had learned to say “no,” and learned it better and better, but it never stopped scaring me, and I never stopped feeling the edges of that balance beam, fearing that I could fall off at any time.

I never did fall, but I jumped, and my hands still shake from time to time from the effects of it.  But I am off of that balance beam for good.  I am out of that narrow place.  As hard as this time is–divorce, the practicalities and legalities and the healing and the hurting, it is so much better than living in those cramped quarters, not ever knowing if I was truly loved or not.  Now I know that I wasn’t, not really, not by him.  But I am now, by many others, and that knowledge is freeing.

As I was driving away during the Great Escape, through the small towns and across the state lines, it’s as if the geography of the countryside itself  was reflecting my escape from Mitzrayim.  The further I went, the sky seemed to open up as the land flattened and the trees became more sparse.  It seemed as if the land itself was unlocking and standing open before me for the rest of my life, and all that lay behind me was Mitzrayim, was dark and tight and narrow, and all that lay ahead was bright and wide and mine for the taking.  And these were a few days before Pesach and I was so aware of that time, that I was running from my own slavery, that I was going out to my own promised land, and that I might have to spend some time in a desert before getting there, but that I was on my way and I wasn’t going back.

“In every generation one must see oneself as if one had personally experienced the Exodus from Egypt.  As it is written:  ‘You shall speak to your children on that day, saying, this is how the Holy Blessed One redeemed me from Egypt.  It wasn’t merely my ancestors who were redeemed, but the Holy Blessed One also redeemed us with them…'”  (from the Haggadah)

Seder-ish

I will not call what I did on Wednesday night a seder, but I would go so far as to call it seder-ish.  I lit some candles, I ate some matzah, I drank some grape juice, I read some jew-y stuff, I bawled my eyes out.

When I spoke to Cherry (see last post) about doing something for Pesach, she said, “I’m sure you have a haggadah with you,” and I said, “Actually, I don’t.”  (The haggadah is the text for the seder, the playbook if you will.)  I didn’t bring much with me, and the haggadot (plural of haggadah) were not readily accessible, so I brought not a one.  Did this faze Cherry?  (What do you think?)  “You can get one online,” she says.

Oh, online.

So for my seder-ish I used the haggadah that the Velveteen Rabbi (aka Rachel Barenblat) has on her blog.  It can be found here.  You should really check it out if you are interested.  It was a little different than what I had been used to in the past (which was probably a good thing) in that I was used to a bit more traditional language, etc., but I really found it to be a wonderful haggadah and would possibly use it again in the future.  The reasons that I were drawn to the Velveteen Rabbi’s haggadah were:

  • It was free.
  • I’ve read a little of her stuff before and I knew that I like her writing and point of view.
  • She has also written a book of poems about miscarriage, which I haven’t read, but I knew that she would “get it” (whatever “it” is) on some level that I am needing right now.  This last one is not entirely logical, but it spoke to my gut, so it’s on the list.

A couple of  highlights:

From page 8 (on the symbolism of the four cups of wine):

“A[n] interpretation is that the cups represent the four promises of liberation G-d makes in the Torah:  I will bring you out, I will deliver you, I will redeem you, I will take you to be my people (Exodus 6:6-7).  The four promises, in turn, have been interpreted as four stages on the path of liberation:  becoming aware of oppression, opposing oppression, imagining alternatives, and accepting responsibility to act.”

From page 36 (before the blessing over the matzah):

“The matzah reminds us that when the chance for liberation comes, we must seize it even if we do not feel ready–indeed, if we wait until we feel fully ready, we may never act at all.”

There is so much more to say.  I could write volumes on the above two quotes alone  just about my experiences in the last month.  I will keep posting about Pesach because it is becoming very powerful to me right now and seems to be exactly what I am needing.

Something interesting happened on Wednesday night.  I figured I’d just go to my room by myself (not that my family would banish me there–mostly I didn’t want to cry in front of all of them), but I ended up with the house to myself for a couple of hours, which hadn’t happened since I had been here.  When I went to light candles, I almost couldn’t.  I felt almost physically incapable.  I was crying and I found myself saying “I can’t do this.”  The interesting thing is, that was what I was saying to myself a lot in the week before I left Mr X.  So I can’t do what?  I’m already doing it.

I did my seder-ish and so I am now carrying around with me a feeling that it is Pesach right now, even though I’ll not be found in shul, I’m not exactly eating “kosher for Passover,” and I’ll probably not even be found with another jew for the whole eight days.  But I feel connected to my people, the people that I chose, and that is enough for now.