Liberate yourself this Passover
At the core of everything people do at the seder and even in the preparations for it, stands the desire to celebrate being liberated from whatever oppresses us and those about whom we care. The task of the seder is to help each of us see ourselves as ones who have been liberated from Egypt, which in Hebrew is Mitzrayim, or tight spot.
The practices of Passover are meant to help us experience and empathize with the journey from slavery to freedom, from the tight spots in our lives to the expansive feeling of liberation. Here are 10 simple practices, each of which is inspired by Passover traditions, to help you liberate yourself and others, too:
• Pick a small symbol of whatever is holding you back and throw it away. Declare that for a specific period of time, say a week, you are simply not going to accept the presence of that problem in your life. That’s what we do when we burn a symbolic amount of hametz, leavened products, on the morning before the holiday begins.
• Treat yourself to something new that makes you feel fresh — a garment or anything else, which, when worn, used, etc., makes you feel like you deserve a fresh start and are getting one. The importance of that feeling is what motivated the practice of wearing a kittel, a simple white robe or jacket at the seder.
• As you prepare for the holiday, make sure that your plans include doing something nice for somebody else. It need not be big, but there is no better path to empowerment than serving another person in need. That’s one of the reasons why in many homes people fill each other’s cups at the seder.
• Whatever you do, don’t go it alone. Just as we welcome “all who are hungry” to our seder tables, identify people who could share in your own process of liberation and invite them to be part of your circle of support.
• Articulate a limited number of challenges, no more than four, a la’ The Four Questions traditionally asked at the seder and limit your worry to that short list. Start by addressing them, just as we start by addressing the classic questions at the seder.
• Take a moment to identify some things that are going well in your life. Where do you see the first signs of new positive potential emerging? They need not be big to be real. Just as we take a bit of green vegetable symbolizing rebirth and renewal early in the seder, take stock of what’s good as part of the process of liberating yourself from what’s not.
• As we recall our ancestors’ tough times in the past with bitter herbs, soften that experience by dipping them in sweet haroset. Consider where you see others wrestling with challenges in their lives, and think about what you could do to lighten their burden. What abilities do you possess that could brighten someone else’s life?
• Find stories of people who have overcome similar challenges to the ones you face, and share those stories with your circle of support. If it worked for others, it can work for you. That’s how we use past experience as a resource in building a better future.
• Make a list of the people and things for which you can be grateful no matter how jammed up your life may otherwise be. Make sure to say ‘thank you’ to those who make the good stuff happen. Gratitude is liberating.
• Articulate your dreams, even if you have no idea about how to make them come true, or any rational expectation that they will. If there was, they would not be dreams. And once you articulate them, you are that much closer to making them real.
This process, whether followed this coming Monday night, or at some other time, is a road map to the liberation we all seek and a source of power to help others find the liberation which they seek as well. Try it and see for yourself!
(Rabbi Brad Hirschfield is the president of Clal — The National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership.)