I am more of an errant Jew than one that strictly follows traditions. Yet there are two Jewish celebrations which deeply move me: Yom Kippur and Pesach. But if I had to choose which one is most sacred I would say that it is Pesach
Pesach reminds that we are most of the time living in the land of the Pharaoh. A narrow place (this is the meaning of the word Mitzraim which is Egypt in Hebrew). Narrowed by education and hypnosis of the verb TO HAVE - possessions of objects, money, people, jobs, degrees, fame, power, behaviors, ideas, and so on - We are daily focused in measuring our losses and gains.
I think it is alright searching things that can give us comfort. As humans this is a part of our lives. The only problem is to have all of our lives submitted to win or lose. In other words: having the pharaoh dictating over us.
Life is always pushing us towards growth. But we are stubborn. We are attached to what we already know or are used to. We can only grow if we displace from where we are and move towards a wider space. Our first movement starts at our birth. From the womb which got narrow to a wider place: the world.
There are many chances during our lives to be “born” again, to move, to cross the great waters, to change, to leave spaces that became too narrow for us.
Out of the “land of the pharaoh”, away from being slaves of possessions, away from the dictatorship of the verb “to have” and that is moving towards the Promised Land.
The verb to have is related to a physical spot on our anatomy: our stomachs, a place where we fill, we accumulate.
The Promised Land is another possible kingdom where we can live and it is ruled by the verb “TO BE”. It is a land related to the heart, a realm of our deep identities (God in me). Note that as someone calls you: Hey you! You generally answer: who me? We point to our chest, to our hearts. That’s where we conjugate the verb “I am”.
Pesach is about a crossing: from the realm of our stomachs (to have) to the realm or kingdom of our hearts (to be). WE can have another physical metaphor: the diaphragm (the red sea to be crossed).
Celebrating is gathering people that are asking themselves, all together, at the same time, the same question. This is the force of a celebration. This is the importance of celebration.
On Pesach the question that can go together with the known question proposed by the youngest at table (which represents the wisdom of “I know that I don’t know”):”Why is this night so different from the other nights?”
The question is: Who is your ruler? Your stomach (the Pharaoh) or your heart (God in you)? “Are you so hypnotized by all that the Pharaoh offers that you have lost the capacity of listening to your heart? How many plagues are you willing to endure before moving towards a needed change? Are you moving in the direction that your heart is pointing you?” That your heart is beckoning you?
- Another curiosity is that there is an interpretation that says that Moses didn’t actually say some prayers or magic words and so the sea opened. There is a version that tells us about an unknown man that, as the pharaoh’s soldiers were approaching, said: I will not wait, I am going. I will cross. And so he got into the sea and started walking, he was sure he had to get to the other side and as he walked the water got up his chest, got up to his throat and as it got to his mouth and nose, then, and only then, the water started to recede.
- We must cross. It is our will, it is a question of belief. It is our certainty that opens the sea. It is not a magic thing like luck. It is our trust that will “open the way”
- It is about leaving the domain of our stomachs, and crossing the red sea (of the diaphragm),and getting to our hearts. The Promised Land, the land of our real identity.
- The important thing about this celebration is that, in a certain way, we know all this. The fact is that we must renew this wish frequently. This requires a drive. Every year, we can get together and all together renew our intentions. It is a movement towards our goal which is to become ourselves, or in other words, live ruled by our hearts.