Monday, March 25, 2013
My Own Personal Exodus
In a matter of hours, Jewish People around the world will sit down and break matzah. I have the great honor and pleasure of hosting my entire immediate family including my husband and five children, my parents, four of my five brothers (my youngest brother has to stay on his base in the army) and their wives and children. Tonight, as we tell the story of our ancestors' slavery and release form Egypt, and celebrate the transition from slavery to freedom... I am especially moved by the contrast of feelings I experienced last holiday.
Last year, at this time, I felt a shadow of my current strength and self. The thought of preparing for the holiday was enough to keep me in bed with the covers pulled tight. Exhaustion and a general feeling of discomfort and lack of luster plagued me. Signs that I will never overlook again; feeling full without eating much, abdominal pain and nausea, but mostly immense unexplained exhaustion, were the whispering signs of ovarian cancer rapidly growing in my body. While I suffered along for quite some months, the final sign that something was wrong, for me, was blood. That final sign delivered me onto the doorstep of medicine, diagnosis, and treatment. Blood has obvious associations with slavery, and I cringe at the thought of what our ancestors went through as they endured beatings and they bled. I cannot overlook the symbolism that blood holds... of freedom. On the night before the Jewish People left Egypt, they were commanded to slaughter a sheep or a goat and to smear its blood on every door post of Jewish homes. This was to be a sign that the plague of the death of all the first-born sons of the Egyptians would not affect any of the Israelite homes. Shortly after that, our ancestors left Egypt.
In no way do I claim to be great or worthy of such a wondrous journey as prolific and meaningful as the greatest story in Jewish history; the Exodus! I believe that every person lives their own personal Testament, their own Torah. This is mine and I feel great in publicizing the miracles that G-d has given me today, in this world. Tonight, as I sit down with my People to drink the red wine, the symbol of our blood and our freedom, each and every symbolic food on the Seder plate will come alive. The power of the symbolism that each of the foods displayed will not be lost on me. The bitter herbs and the charoset, the egg and the bone... all symbols with dual meanings that embody both slavery and deliverance to freedom! The whole point of the Seder meal is, as the wise scholars have told us for generations, that we should tell the story of leaving Egypt to the point where we actually see and feel ourselves personally leaving Egypt! Egypt symbolizes slavery on every level; spiritual and physical, material, and psychological so eventually and climactically, we strive to break out of all of them.
It's clear beyond doubt what my personal Egypt was this past year. I feel so blessed to have been carried out of Egypt feeling more alive and strong than ever. What better way to come up close and personal with the story of Exodus and my ancient roots? There are many symbols in life that we can embody and LIVE through modern day deliverance from slavery to freedom. These symbols, whatever they might be, can be an inspiration. This year, I will raise my glass and unchain myself from my own personal Egypt. May we all be blessed with inspiration from whatever symbols move us to release from our own personal slavery and deliver us to freedom in this world and the World to Come.