The Smell of Freedom

I smell like brisket right now. The scent permeates my home and my shirt. I’m a cologne guy since 7th grade when I got a bottle of Jade East as a Bar mitzvah present, so how I smell matters a lot to me.   

But I’m not bothered by the heady aroma of onions and ketchup and garlic, etc., that rises off me like the cloud above Pigpen of Peanuts fame (not of the Grateful Dead). Quite the opposite; I wear it a triumph, as a landmark turning point.  

Last year I was immersed in a cloud of post-op depression, moving slowly with my beloved heart pillow clutched tightly to my recently split and reglued chest. The seder table was not much of a seder table at all. Three places set, not the usual 40+—nothing exceptional cooking. In fact, by my wife and kids’ mandate, I was expressly not permitted to even stand in the kitchen no less cook. And, of course, there was the already ubiquitous iPad set for Zoom.

  Don’t get me wrong. I was profoundly thankful to see friends and relatives join us. At least we had that. But how could we think about the legacy of liberation and redemption when I felt so confined, limited, and fettered?   This Passover, I will have my family pod gathered along with relatives and the machatunem (in-laws). Everyone around the pod is vaccinated. It’s such a blessing.

And I am deeply thankful: to the scientists who developed the vaccine, the lab people who helped with the grunt work of performing experiment after experiment, the pharma people who mass-produced it, the government that invested in it, the people who packed it and delivered it safely, the people who gave the shots… and the rest of the folks who all had a hand in vaccinating me and the rest of the country – and eventually, the world.  

I don’t mind smelling like my childhood kitchen before Passover. Because it means I’m making seder dinner, up close and personal. As my mother would say, “What a mechiyah!”   

Last year it didn’t seem right or possible to pray about the Exodus and our redemption. There was so much darkness, so much in the way. But this year, a new day is slowly dawning. This year it feels right; no, it feels necessary to recall our liberation back then and anticipate our future deliverance.    I pray that this Passover heralds a new moment of opening of souls and hearts even as our society opens up.

Can we take all we’ve learned and create a better life based on the lessons of Covid? That’s the question, and I challenge you to bring it up. Make this a Passover of meaning and consequence.    Liza and I and the Stern Gang wish you a zissen Pesach (a sweet Passover).   May we all be healthy and vaccinated, and free. I look forward to hugs and kisses and tears. I miss you all. Next year in Jerusalem.   

With love and blessings,   rebhayim

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