Saturday, April 15, 2006
Every year, before pesach, Jews are supposed to burn the chomeitz they have left in their possession. Yidden gather 'round, making fires in trash cans or alleys, making fire fighters everywhere cringe.
There is a spiritual dimension to chomeitz. The way dough rises and becomes "puffed up" is a metaphor for our egos. So one of the spiritual themes of pesach is self-nullification. Matzo is a very humble food. To eat it is to physically consume humbleness.
Another pesach theme is to liberate ourselves from our own personal Egypt. The hebrew word for Egypt - Mitzrayim - is related to the hebrew word "constraint," or "boundary." Every year pesach offers us a spiritual channel for personal freedom.
With this in mind, I have a personal ritual when I burn my chomeitz. I write down character traits that are ego-related or constraining to my G-dly self. Then I tuck the piece of paper in with my chomeitz and hope the fire can help me destroy my own evil.
This year's list included:
- being mean to Yaakov
The worst of it is, I think I experienced every one of these traits over the 3 day yom tov/shabbos period. Here it is, pesach - z'man cheruseinu - and I'm STILL stuck in Egypt! I feel like I don't have the tools to get out. Or, on a darker, more introspective note, maybe I don't want to. We all get used to our pain and our baggage, to the point where it becomes morbidly comfortable. Probably the most rampant form of masochism ever.
In Egypt there were actually Jews who didn't escape. They were so entrenched in the Egyptian exile, they got left behind. I feel I was one of those souls. I feel like the residue of being left in Egypt has stuck to me through many lifetimes, and is part of the anxiety maven I am today. (And yes, re-incarnation IS a tenet of Judaism).
I might be totally wrong. I could have been one of the women who carried a tambourine out from Egypt, laughing at pharoah's army as they drowned. Still, I often catch myself humming a familiar line from an Indigo Girls tune;
"How long 'til my soul gets it right?"