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Internalizing the Insights of Passover

April 5, 2021 | by Emuna Braverman

The real work of Passover begins now.

Query: Why is it that I seem to be experiencing the freedom associated with the holiday after Pesach only after the holiday is over? I’m tempted to think, while not connected to my ability to now eat pizza and pasta to my heart’s content (I couldn’t really do that; there would be other consequences!), it does initially seem related to the lifting of the restrictions of the holiday.

All the Pesach pots and pans and dishes and ingredients that took over every available space in my home have now been put away; the kitchen feels lighter somehow. Even the air is softer and the sun is shining brighter. What should I make of this – other than the fact that Passover came early this year and so spring hadn’t quite sprung?

I think that, despite my tongue-in-cheek explanation, there is an important reality to what I’m describing. Insights may occur in a moment – we may come across an idea as we’re preparing for Pesach that connects us more deeply to the holiday or we may light up with an insight during the seder that deepens our experience of the moment, that takes us back to Egypt or connects us with the history and goals of the Jewish people or even best of all brings us closer to the Almighty.

But, as in therapy and everything else in life, insights are only the beginning. Real growth occurs when those insights are internalized, when they become a part of us. In order for that to occur, we have to sit with the idea, play with the idea, expand upon the idea and keep reminding ourselves of the idea. The Passover Seder is the beginning of this process, not the end.

Armed with our ideas and determined to incorporate them into our beings, we march forth along with the rest of our nation towards the receiving of the Torah on Shavuot, an event only made possible through the assimilation of the freedom that began with Pesach.

I always like to point out that everyone remembers the first part of the line that God told Moses to say to Pharaoh “Let My people go” (it’s even immortalized in song) but few know the second part of the sentence “so that they may serve Me”. This is the essence of the possibility inherent in the gift of freedom – the choice to serve the Almighty.

After we lifted our heads up from the terrible slavery of Egypt, we felt that new lightness of being that allowed us to turn our efforts and energies towards developing and deepening our relationship with our Creator. We, as a people, needed the experience of slavery, of the plagues, of the Pesach offering and the blood on the doorposts before we could begin to appreciate our freedom, before we could begin our journey to true service of the Almighty. It was only after the going out of Egypt that this was possible.

So too with us as individuals. We had the experience. We had the insights. We explored our personal obstacles to growth and used the tools of the seder to work on banishing them from our psyche. And now, with the holiday over, we too feel that new lightness, we too see a glimpse of freedom. It’s not just because the noise and chaos have diminished (just kidding; I loved having my grandchildren here) leaving room for sustained thought; it’s that with the end of the holiday, the internalization of the insights begins.

King Solomon reminded us that there is a time for everything. With Pesach (just barely) behind us, it’s time to really get to work, to take the hard-won ideas of the holiday and make them apart of our lives, to understand and experience our freedom and to use it the way the Almighty intended.

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