Once we were slaves. Then there were miracles and revelations, a reluctant leader, and, as in any good coming of age story, a long road trip.
We subsequently became a nation, complained a tremendous amount, inherited a beautiful homeland and a rich tradition, and have ever since been debating the authenticity and relevance of both — passing down through generations the notion that we the Jews, if nothing else, feel obligated to question with a deep sense of entitled self-loathing every good thing that ever happens to us.
Therefore, in a fitting celebration of all this unwieldy freedom, we keep the collective memory alive by re-enslaving ourselves every year.
To the supermarket. To the kitchen. To preparing and consuming amounts of food not recommended for anyone without tusks. Or to the impossible cleanliness standards set by genetic OCD. Or to the exorbitant prices charged by hotels for those seeking to avoid a contact high from bleach. To unnecessary stringency now bringing the aforementioned disorder to bear, at a molecular level, on quasi-synthetic food products which might be related to a cousin of a legume.
Such freedom is hard to resist.
But I did, because this has been a year of great experiments for me. I decided to try something different. In general a detail-oriented control freak, and until quite recently kind of a pleaser, I had something new to prove, mostly to myself. And that involved being willing to (wait for it) let it go.
This year, there was going to be no stress and only minimal effort in anticipation of a holiday meant to be about longing and surprise and liberation and togetherness and the great power of the natural universe. If my ancestors had to make their salvation real in four days, so would I. Authenticity demanded shock and awe, and so did my impossible work schedule.
And so. About ten days before Passover, when many of my friends were already proclaiming to the social feeds their advanced levels of readiness for the impending festival of freedom, I calmly drafted my first to do list. It would just have to be good enough.
I will not bore you with the details of a rather brilliant operation involving prioritization, delegation, accepting an invitation, and a single focused day of extreme activity, but I will say that my days of spending any more time thinking about or doing unnecessary things are probably over. In the end, I had time to spare in the hours before sunset, and I spent it running outside in the beautiful spring air, where there was no more tin foil or boiling water or 600 degrees of kosheration but
maybe definitely God anyway.
I can not claim to be free from that constant buzzing dissatisfaction that characterizes the Jewish people; quite the contrary, and I’m glad. It’s what makes us excellent. But now I know that this dissatisfaction can enslave you. True freedom, it seems, demands managing our obsessive ambition in a way that puts *it* in service of the greatest possible (collective and individual) purpose.
Now I suppose we will have to question how to define what that purpose is. And we will argue about it. And our answers may be good enough.
Maybe even good.