By: Adam Mayer, Ayeka Educator and Jewish Studies teacher & Beit Midrash Fellow at Kohelet High School
As I approach Passover this year, like most years, I am overwhelmed! How can I possibly prepare everything in time? The cleaning and the cooking will get done; But how can I prepare myself to experience the freedom of leaving Egypt as part of a newly liberated Jewish People?
The Jewish calendar makes sure that we have ample opportunity to prepare for this. Creating and investing in my own Jewish identity is the first step. A few weeks ago we read Parshat Shekalim in which we read that each person brought their ½ shekel to make sure that they were counted as part of the whole of the Jewish people. So before Pesach, I will try to spend some time thinking of what it means to me to be Jewish and to count myself as part of the Jewish People.
An integral part of our shared experience of freedom is that we always remember that we were slaves and how G-D took us out of Egypt. On the Shabbat before Purim we read the short episode of how Amalek attacked the Israelites as soon as they were freed. This reminds me that part of our experience of freedom is identifying with all those whose freedom is threatened even to this very day. Our freedom comes with the responsibility and obligation to all people in the world. Before Pesach I will try to listen and connect with people who feel that their freedom is being threatened.
Two weeks before Pesach we read the first commandment given to the entire Jewish People to establish the month of Nissan as the first month in the Jewish calendar. In the process from slavery to freedom, the first step towards autonomy is taking responsibility for our time. We became in charge of watching the moon and declaring when a new month would begin, and when we would celebrate our own holidays. Perhaps this should be moment we commemorate (יכול מראש חודש). But we wait and prepare for two more weeks. So this year before Pesach I will try to notice how I take responsibility for my time.
Finally, the Shabbat before Pesach, Shabbat Hagadol, The Great Shabbat is a time for us to remember all the details of the Passover story and refresh our memory of the relevant laws of the holiday. Each rule and every custom has the potential to increase our sense of freedom, if we look into it. Even if we were all wise and learned, it is still equally commanded upon all of us to discuss and delve into Pesach as much as we can. Before this Pesach, I will try to meditate on how my own experiences of freedom will help me bring freedom into the world.
So, I prepare as best as I can for a new experience of freedom. I hope for a freedom that will lead me through the desert, through the unknown, to Torah and to the Promise Land. As much as I may try to be prepared for this holy cornerstone of the Jewish experience, I am also trying to free myself from confining expectations and be open to being unprepared and accepting whatever comes my way with love.