The dust has settled! Pesach feels like a dream, no longer part of your reality but not totally outside of it either. The "trick" is to keep it with you at least a while longer.
I saw an amazing idea from my latest Hagaddah. The author, Rabbi Elimelech Biderman, points out that the generic phrase "yitzias Mitzraim" which most people translate as "leaving Egypt" (without too much thinking) literally means “Egypt’s leaving” rather than "Leaving FROM Egypt", which would translate as yestzias iMItzraim. Do you like grammar? No? Keep reading anyway. Until he pointed it out, I always filed this problem under "that's how Hebrew goes" and kept on doing things like munching on matzah. He asks, "Where did Egypt go? Didn't you just say it left? The answer is that it's much easier for you to leave Egypt than it is for Egypt to leave you. Getting Egypt out of the Jews was the most profound miracle of all. Even after an entire year of miracles, Egypt was still alive and well deep inside. Their fear of Egypt was hidden in that indescribable place, where your thoughts are barely audible. They were still afraid of all of those Masters. The ones who subtly compete with Hashem. He quotes the Zohar that says that they only let go of all of their fears when they saw the Egyptians drown in the sea. Until then they were still afraid of the Egyptian taskmasters who turned their lives into unending nightmares.
The Egyptians take many forms. Are you enslaved? Who holds the whip that makes you willing to do whatever he demands? Are you afraid of your boss? Your loneliness? Your financial insecurity? Your failures? The good news is that Hashem cares enough about you to say, “It's all illusion. They are gone. Dead in the water. Just be free”.
Take Pesach with you
I always picture Pesach in pastels, wrapped and beribboned and very, very otherworldly. So many secular Jews sense the special nature of the narrative of the exodus (whether or not they recite it). They get together and make some sort of a Seder, sharing the experience of being part of something more than themselves. At least for the moment we are all free.
I went through some albums this year in the pre-Pesach cleanup. I came across a picture of my aunts. My mother had six sisters. They were all very different from each other; intellectual Fay, Dorothy with her fascinating collections , talkative Rose who gloried in her children's success and made sure we knew about them, gregarious Ceil, always the life of any party, beautiful Jeanette the fashionista. My mother's favorite sister was Goldie.
All seven of them (and their two brothers) went to public school in the Lower East Side of Manhattan. The teachers were predominantly Irish, and did not particularly like Jews. To the girls, America was the ultimate melting pot, the fulfillment of the dream of being whoever you want to be. Their parents were still in Egypt; the name of their Egypt was Bialystok and Grodno, but it was Egypt. Every year, another one of the Cohen Girls entered first grade. The teacher was severe and remote; an almost iconic figure. She wore suits and starched white shirts. Their Mama wore housecoats covered with aprons that she removed as the day progressed. She was soft smelled faintly of fried onions, and came from another planet. Papa sold boys trousers from a pushcart on Delancey Street. Like their ancestors in Egypt, they didn't change their names, their language or their clothing. They spoke Yiddish, used Jewish names, and had a look that proclaimed them as hopelessly Green. They came from a different planet than the one that Mrs. Grady introduced to the Cohen girls. As she went through the rows, she asked each pupil their name. When Fay, the eldest, sat in 1-A she was told that the name she gave when asked, Faygaleh isn't a name. That's how she became Fay. Year after year, the same scene repeated itself. Devaira became Dorothy, Tzirel became Ceil, Raizeleh became Rose, Yentie became Jeanette. My mother, Sarale, became Syd. Goldie was different. When the teacher informed her that Goldie isn't a name and that gold is a metal, she told her name is Goldie. Period. No negotiations. She stayed Goldie for the rest of her life. All of the sisters were very Jewish, made Seders and invited and cooked. None of them liberated themselves from Egypt as well as Goldie did.
The weeks until Shavuot are weeks of challenge. You have to figure out how free you want to be-Hashem opened the doors wide, displayed infinite love and devotion. You have to learn how to get Egypt out of yourself by facing the daily choices. You can go for being kind, strong, real and balanced, transcendent, humble and devoted, you have it in you. You can reach out for the best choice of all, letting Hashem rule, putting crown so to speak on His head, and not been so afraid of whoever your slave master is that you are too afraid to let go of your patterns of thought and feelings that keep you enslaved.
I will be in the States, BEH from May 8 for two weeks. I will send out my itinerary so that you can be in touch with me or get to a class.
All the best,