Friday, April 6, 2012

What Holds You Back? A Passover Reflection

Tonight begins the first night of Passover. When I was a kid, Passover meant squirming in my chair while we waited through the boring prayers. It meant fingerprinting the ten plagues with Manishevitz on our dinner plates and shouting in glee: "Frogs!" "Vermin" "Rivers of Blood!" It meant opening the door for the angel Elijah to come in. Passover is supposed to remind us of suffering—the Jews' enslavement, the hard-hearted pharoah, the flight into the desert, the wandering in deprivation toward the promised land—and so the seder often lasts a LONG time.

The Seder plate holds all that suffering as symbols: the lamb bone, to remind us of sacrifice; the parsley to remind us of bitterness; the salt water to remind us of tears; the haroset, to remind us of slavery; the matzo to remind us of hardship; and the egg...well I'm not sure what the egg represents—rebirth? A nod to Easter?

I usually try to hold a seder at my house, though this year it didn't work out. So I'll show you a picture of my seder plate from last year instead:

Note the rawhide chew toy standing in for the lamb shank!
While my child self remembers Passover about suffering, my adult self has chosen to focus more on liberation. Passover comes at the beginning of spring, a good time to reflect on what enslaves us and what sets us free.

Five Things That Hold Me Back

1. My wrists. When I'm doing yoga, I can feel strong and confident and in the flow. But the first thing to give out is my wrists. They begin to ache and whimper, and I yell at them to be quiet. They seem so small, so insignificant: shouldn't it be my hamstrings or my hips that hold me back? (Well they do, too, but for some reason I don't get as mad at them as I do my wrists....) I never remember my wrists until I begin to abuse them. I never take care of them. And though they seem so small, they really can determine everything.

2. Sugar. Sugar is so small, and yet so large. Sugar is never satisfied. Sugar wants to undermine all good intention. Sugar seduces. Sugar says you're hungry. Sugar says you're mine.

3. Television. I love television. There. I've said it. I love the way it keeps me enthralled. I love the stories, the way they unfold week after week. I love the company. But television says, you never have to leave the house again. Television says, I demand nothing of you. Television says, don't move.

4. Self-Doubt.  Need I say more?

5. The Hard-Hearted Pharoah of Perfection. This unkind dictator has been with me a long time—so long, in fact, that we're quite good buddies now. We're actually in danger of merging into one being. This Pharoah cracks the whip. This Pharoah demands more and more, is never satisfied even with a good job. It all has to be perfect.

Moses demanded "Let My People Go!" and the Pharoah refused each time. Finally, Moses took it upon himself to lead the Jews out of Egypt, with some help from God along the way; you know, like that little favor called the parting of the red sea (watch this clip and hear the greatest line of all time: "God opens the sea with a blast of his nostrils....")

What holds you back? And how can you free yourself from it? What kind of miracles can you muster? 

Wishing you a good Pesach and the thrill of liberation.


  1. Hi Brenda. I am wishing you a liberating passover, and am hoping a long soak in the new tub will be involved, and that Abbe feels better. I'm just about to write a post myself, and you inspired me as ever.

  2. I know what you mean about the wrists. I injured mine some years back and they're always the first to go when I workout.

    It's interesting to me that you separate the perfectionist identity from yourself, being enslaved by it. Do you not much like that quality about yourself?


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