Something reflective – Freedom and Coming out of Lockdown
Every generation has its own special and unique Exodus from Egypt, wrote the popular Rebbe, Yehudah Aryeh Leib of Ger, known as the Sefat Emet. In Hebrew, Egypt is Mitzrayim, related to tzar, narrow, and metzarim, narrow and confining places. To Hasidic teachers like the Sefat Emet, Egypt is not a geographical but a mental and spiritual location and the exodus is our personal journey to freedom year by year.
It doesn’t need saying that our special exodus this year is our release from lockdown and the restrictions necessitated by the pandemic. It may be slow, but hopefully it will be steady and enduring.
This contemporary personal exodus poses at least two major questions.
The first is so obvious there’s a risk we scarcely think about it. In the Torah, freedom is never just ‘freedom from’ but always also ‘freedom for.’ So what is our re-found freedom for? Some answers are obvious: ‘I want to hug my family, meet my friends, get back to making a living, see the sea.’
Lockdown has forced us to reconsider our true priorities. Which of those freedoms did we take for granted? How will we cherish them more? Of whom and what were we not sufficiently mindful before? Freedom is bound up with social justice and compassionate community: what values have we learnt to stand up for?
The second question is less obvious, but I’ve heard people talk about it. What freedoms, if any, has lockdown actually brought us?
It’s a question some will justly dismiss as insulting, – if one’s been shut in with maddening neighbours, had no digital access, been left at the mercy of an abusive partner, forced to isolate from everyone one loves, or lost one’s job, one’s health, or a beloved relative.
But I believe it still has a place. Before lockdown were we too dependent on material things? Or on distractions? Do we really need everything we thought we needed? Must we get back to all that rush? Has being forced to turn inwards opened doors to inner strengths we were less aware of before? Are there relationships which have deepened and become more important? Are there spiritual spaces, places of listening, we’ve learnt to cherish?
These questions are integral to the special and immediate exodus we are beginning to undergo, into the midst of which Pesach falls this year.
Something halakhic – How do I kosher my kitchen?
What about the oven? The fridge and the sink? How does one kasher a microwave? Last night Rabbi Chaim Weiner took us round his kitchen with a brilliant demonstration of how to make everything Pesach-ready. Follow him through this link. Don’t be shy about sending him, me or any of the rabbinic team questions. And get good, heat-resistant gloves. Burning oneself, as I’ve learnt to my cost, isn’t part of the mitzvah.
PS Don’t overdo it. And don’t leave the hard work to others. (Some of you may appreciate the poem below!)
Something for the Seder – Activities for children
Niki Jackson, our Director of Education, sends these suggested 10 Pesach Challenges, from making charoset through to preparing table decorations and ideas for the Seder.
by Talya Glezer, trans. Rabbi Jonathan Wittenberg
She who stood, cleaned, rinsed, polished, kashered, boiled and heated white-hot
Whose skin got burnt by caustic soda
And whose clothes ruined by Economica
Who cooked and roasted and baked
And prepared six Seder plates
And laid the table for thirty
And washed and ironed festival clothes
She who stood
And served the food
And cleared away after the meal
She who stood for ‘Pour out Your wrath’ didn’t manage to sing Hallel and Chad Gadya
But rested her head for one moment on the table
And fell asleep.
Talya Glezer. Vehi She’Amdah (הלילה הזה כולו שירה – עורך מרדכי דוד כהן)