Rabbis Without Borders
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In ten days we will be surrounded by these same boxes in a different house. After nine months of preparation—purging our house of unnecessary stuff and packing the essentials for our journey—my family will leave our home of sixteen years. The timing of our move, immediately after Passover, inspired much discussion at our Seder about leaving behind the burdens of last year and embracing the excitement of beginning anew.
I focused on asking questions throughout the Seder, to make it possible for each person to fulfill the obligation to feel personally redeemed during the telling of the story of the Exodus. During magid I asked, “What burdens do you hope to be freed from in the coming year?” I was surprised when my younger daughter spoke about her illness earlier this year. I shared my sense of finally emerging from a narrow place, those difficult months filled with anxiety about her health.
Singing Hallel, praises to God, in the presence of family and friends, these words sprang off the page of my Haggadah: “For you delivered my soul from death, my eyes from tears, and my feet from stumbling; I will walk before God in the lands of the living.” (Psalms 116:8-9) I thought of the many times I cried, utterly alone in my parental suffering. I remembered how often I stumbled through the day following a sleepless night of worry, to attain this expansive freedom to celebrate Passover.
Yet as these words of the Psalmist left my lips, I knew I spoke a lie: “I was faithful even when I said, ‘I suffered terribly; I said in my panic, ‘All people are unreliable!’” (Psalms 116:10-11) I was anything but faithful during these months; I did not trust God to deliver me from my suffering.
Late last night, after I’d packed several boxes of items to be unpacked for next year’s Seder in the new house, I logged on and searched through posts I wrote on the She Answers Abraham blog for evidence of my previous encounter with this particular psalm:
Often, when we are distracted by pain, we allow its attendant anger to overtake us, and we blurt out terrible things about each other which we later regret. We seek relief in blaming someone else for our situation. Sometimes we accuse each other; other times we denounce God….The Psalmist reflects on a previous experience of suffering, when pain caused him to lose faith in humanity. Yet he maintained an unshakable faith in God. I find solace in repeating this verse as a mantra; I feel my pain begin to dissipate. I am confident that when I look back on this difficult time, my faith in God and others will have endured. (September 28, 2011)
Now I search my heart for the confidence I possessed nearly five years ago. I search my soul for an unshakable faith in God who delivered my eyes from tears and my feet from stumbling. I find consolation in reading these words, in recalling my daughter’s words at our Seder.
The taste of redemption arrives intermittently when we are momentarily freed from our anxiety, fear and suffering. I pray for the spiritual strength to place these burdens in the past and move unencumbered to our new home, where I hope to find renewed faith and abundant joy.