In just a few days it will be Passover. Although this is a holiday that involves unbelievable amounts of effort in preparation (more about that in a minute), it is, nonetheless, one of my favorite Jewish holidays. For those of you who might not know too much about this holiday, there’s good background information here (just click on the link for Passover 101). It’s a celebration of freedom; we tell the tale of the Jews exodus from slavery in Egypt and their release from bondage. We tell this tale as if we were actually a part of this process … and that’s why I so love this holiday. It’s a time to pause and think about freedom and slavery, about free will and bondage, about the ways in which we – personally – contribute to the freedom/slavery of both ourselves and others.
Freedom. Slavery. I found this lovely chart that gives some synonyms for each of these conditions. As I read it I couldn’t help but start to giggle; it could have had the headings Retirement and Educrat (that’s a bureaucrat – have to admit that working for government that’s what one is – who works in education) in place of the headings Freedom and Slavery.
Freedom Slavery ======================================================== autonomy owning a person as property deliverance withdrawal of power of resistance emancipation manipulation of other human beings liberty drudgery frankness captivity outspokenness serfdom unhampered boldness subjugation separation bondage independence enslavement servitude
And so … I prepare for Passover this year with special gratitude. On the evening of April 8th (1 day after David’s daughter Leora’s birthday … Happy Birthday Leora! ) we will gather around the table with family and friends and participate in a Passover Seder. We’ll go through the Haggadah and take the time to talk about what the story means to each of us.
Some years ago I began to have “issues” with the traditional Haggadah which didn’t – in my opinion – meet feminist requirements. In short, it was a tale about men which seemed to exclude women. And so I sat myself down and – using the limited computer resources available to me in 1990 – wrote my own Haggadah, keeping the key elements of the traditional one and adding pieces which were more inclusive and focused on overall social justice. David and I rewrote it again in 2001 to make it The Bereskin Haggadah (hint: if you click on the photo you’ll get an image large enough to read the cover print). So on the nights of our two Seders (April 8th and 9th this year) we’ll take the time to gather with friends and family and pause and tell the story of the Exodus form Egypt and think about our lives and the lives of those around us, and we’ll sing, and we’ll eat, and we’ll eat some more, and then we’ll eat a little bit more again. And we’ll think about our own freedom and the ways in which we ensure that others have freedom as well.
About the preparation. A little more than a week ago I started the day by developing a calendar of what needed to be done between then and Passover (you shouldn’t be surprised by this). This is where the distinction between freedom and bondage gets a bit blurry! I have to pack away all of my dishes / pots / cutlery / utensils – the ones that I use all year long – and replace them with separate sets of kitchen equipment that are only used for these 8 days each year and spend the rest of the year packed away in the basement. Because we have a kosher home, that means 2 sets of everything right? I need to scrub and clean every room in the house (my own version of a spring cleaning ritual). I need to buy special food and I need to cook and cook and cook. My “Passover Prep” plan shows two very busy weeks that – along with the cleaning and cooking – includes giving another keynote address, organizing an ESL practicum, doing Red Cross on-calls, and finishing the embroidery on a gift that I’m preparing for my niece Tari’s Bat Mitzvah later in April. Busy? You betcha.
So, why is it that even though for the past weeks and for the coming few days I have been/will be a slave to Passover, I am feeling more free than I ever have? In this time of economic crisis (and yes, it has now truly hit home as I received notice from the University yesterday that the course I’ve been teaching won’t be mine next year …. cutbacks you see (and I’ve already communicated interest in a few courses at another of Toronto’s universities), it seems even more important for me to focus on what is important and how I – dwelling in the luxury of retirement – can make a difference. Marianne Williamson said that “… as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” So I’ll continue moving forward step by step in this new phase of my own life, and I’ll try to keep my eye on the big picture.
Before I sign off for today (by the way, I won’t be posting on Thursday as I usually do since it will be Passover; the next posting will be next Monday – April 13th) let me wish you all a joyful Pesach (if you’re celebrating it) and to everyone … the joy of freedom in your own lives.
I’d be really really interested to know if other women who’ve retired can pinpoint one thing that really represents freedom for them. I’m guessing it will be a wide-ranging set.
PS – let me know if you’d like links to the recipes I’m using.