Friday, April 15, 2016

#BlogExodus: Examine

My friend and colleague, Rabbi Phyllis Sommer has for many years invited people to "Blog Exodus" at this time of year. See her blog from the 11th of April: Basically, she chooses a theme a day for the fourteen days leading up to the Seder, and invites us all to write on that theme. You can do it on her daily Facebook post or on your blog.

Today's theme spoke to me at a moment when I had some time to write. The theme is Examine.

Now Examine is very Pesadik trope - next week we will clean our homes of all chametz - the stuff that has been leavened. Some will even use a feather and candle to examine the nooks and crannies in our homes so we can find the last of the chametz. We have been examining store shelves for weeks, hoping to find everything we need in order to prepare meals for a week, including one or two fairly large feasts.

But seeing the word Examine as a theme for the day makes me think about something even more intimate. It is interesting that the Israelites were instructed to make sure the lambs they sacrificed on the night of the final plague had to be without blemish, but were not told to purify themselves in any way. But much of the book of Vayikra (Leviticus) is filled with various people in a variety of situations being commanded to purify themselves as they prepared for a ritual or to reenter the camp.

My wife and I agree that Pesach is one of our favorite festivals, and it may be number one. The reason has to do with the cleaning of the house and the switching of the dishes. For me, though, it is also the idea that I need to Examine myself, and find the chametz that is inside me. I need to find the things that are holding me back from setting out on the path to freedom this year. And I need to deal with them. Some I can handle on my own. Others are big enough that I will need some help.

My rabbi growing up, Mark S. Shapiro, used to say that as hard as it was to get the Jews out of Egypt, it is (still!) harder to get the Egypt out of the Jews. We bring our chametz with us, just like packing a lunch for the road. The forty years of wandering was God's attempt to get the chametz of actual slavery - and the fantasy that somehow Egypt was better than the reality of freedom - out of our heads.

Find your own chametz - the kind that is inside you. And get rid of it. I am hoping we don't need to take a whole generation to get it done.