Your Best is Good Enough
Many of us have powerful memories of our childhood Passover seders. Here is mine: Nana Edith bustles about the kitchen, finishing off the matzah balls, putting the hand-grated horseradish on the seder plate and arranging the vegetables around the gefilte fish. After a chorus of, “Sit down, Mom. Come and sit down,” Nana finally sits across the large dining room table from Poppy. We open our Maxwell House haggadahs and Poppy chants the Pesach Kiddush. I peek down toward the end of the table at my beloved Nana. She is snoring lightly, her cheek resting on her palm. We are ready to be redeemed from slavery. She is at last redeemed from the weeks of cleaning and preparation. But she is too tired to celebrate Passover.
For generations, the great tradition of Passover has been all about missing the point. Too many of us get trapped into thinking that the main endeavor of the Passover holiday entails sweeping attics, vacuuming bedrooms, packing up half-filled bottles of catsup and shlepping boxes of dishes from the basement to cupboards emptied and scoured clean. And if we don’t turn our houses over according to strict Jewish law, we still manage to get caught up in the pressure of preparation. Our friends finish their Passover shopping the day after Purim and brag about three dozen matzah balls in the freezer. We worry about keeping the brisket from drying out and whether our sponge cake will rise as high as our mother’s used to do.
None of this is the main point.
The main point of Passover is that we were slaves in Egypt for four hundred years and God took us out with a strong hand and an outstretched arm. We are commanded to remember this narrative and teach it to the next generation, ensuring that the Jewish people will never forget our origins. We tell the story over and over about how we began as slaves to ensure that others do not suffer as we did. We marvel at all of the miracles God performed, plagues and parted seas, and we understand that we are surrounded by daily miracles. We are thankful to God for delivering us from Egypt and remember to be grateful for all the good that is ours.
Rabbi Yitz Greenberg writes about Passover in The Jewish Way: “By the magic of shared values and shared story, the Exodus is not some ancient event, however influential. It is the ever-recurring redemption; it is the once and future redemption of humanity.”
So, yes, I have been sweeping and vacuuming, packing and shlepping. I have resisted panicking over the masterful shopping of boastful friends but I am actually quite worried about the height of my sponge cake. How do I stay focused on the main point? First, I remember my own best advice regarding Passover cleaning and cooking mantra: “My best is good enough.”
Then, I remind myself that the physical preparation for Pesach is just a metaphor for the spiritual preparation with which I am meant to engage. At Passover, my soul is redeemed from the slavery of the everyday (think: calendars, iPhones, To Do lists, and unreasonable expectations). Once a year, in the month of Nisan, I remember that I am blessed with the greatest gift of all. I am free. I remember this truth every time I tell the story of the Exodus. And that is the point of Passover.
Wishing everyone a beautiful, freeing and meaningful Passover, Rabbi Paula Mack Drill