Now What?

Every year my wife Liza fashions an army surplus parachute into a tent under which we celebrate the seder. Over these last few years, she has chosen to erect the tent in a large room on the third floor of our home. The younger folks sit on the floor on rugs and blankets. The older ones have chairs and a couple of couches. It’s rather dark under this tent, even with some lamps. It actually sets a mood of anticipation and excitement. It’s like a journey is beginning.

And that’s just what Passover is all about. There is the story of the Exodus itself, a quintessential exploration of moving from one place to a radically different location. On a deeper level, it is all about the movement that is a part of existence itself.

We are confronted almost every day with a question: are you moving forward or backward? Will you reach for freedom or fall back into servitude – in this case, servitude to bad habits and laziness.

It also begs the question: are we capable of changing? Can we decide to actually improve our lives by changing our behavior? Can we make new choices that veer away from what we “always” choose? Can we order a new dish at a regularly frequented restaurant? Can we respond to a child’s tantrum with less frustration and more empathy? Can we take a deep breath when someone cuts us off in traffic rather than speeding up to box him in?

It’s easy to say, “Of course we can change!” But to actually make the change is a whole different ballgame.

After getting to the other side of the Sea of Reeds, our ancestors cheered. But later, as they sat in their tents I imagine they wondered, “Now what”?

I thought about that when I went up to the third floor today to survey the empty room that was packed with guests and haggadahs and parsley and so forth a few nights before. I stood in that tent and I wondered, “Now what?” Have we taken away some teachings, some thoughts about change? Have we been inspired to step out from the tent and do something that might bring some love and hope into the world?

Passover is a yearly dose of optimism. It is a reminder that the cycle of liberation and redemption is not easy. As Richie Havens once sang, “It’s a long long road/Before we’ll be free.”

Passover reminds us that we are liberated not as individuals, but as a people. We cross the sea together with our tribe – AND the multitudes, Egyptians and foreign slaves who came along with the Israelites because they learned from us that no one deserved to be a slave, that there was more to life than living under the whip of an oppressor.

Can we be free? Can we free ourselves? Can we free others? Can we change the way we’ve been living to accommodate the needy? How can we say no? Come out from the darkness of your tent and celebrate in the light of day. And then be the change.

Shabbat Shalom and Happy Passover.



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