Among the stories that make up my family’s cultural heritage is the one about the Pesach that my grandmother sat down in her chair at the Seder, closed her eyes for a moment, and slept through the whole thing. As someone who grew up with major FOMO before FOMO was even a thing, the story horrified me! How terrible to sleep through the entire Seder – which you worked so long to prepare and is so full of treasured and enjoyable moments of connection to family, our history and Hashem. Especially with the memories of my grandmother at other Seders basking in the nachas she got being surrounded by the children and their questions, the joy she got in us eating her delicious food, her proud voice singing the traditional songs, I could not imagine how she possibly missed out on it! When I asked her how that happened, she shook her head sadly and said, “I guess I did too much. It was a hard year and that was the first time I really sat down in a long time.”
The Cinderella meme that is going around these days of Cinderella in her ball gown with the caption “Purim” followed by Cinderella in her rags marked “Pesach” reminds me of this story. When I first saw it, I laughed! I love to dress up and feel special on Purim! And for the following thirty days I work incredibly hard to get ready for Pesach. But after appreciating the humor, I remarked, “But when I get to the Seder, and my house is beautiful and organized and clean, I feel like the Queen again!”
How can we ensure that we get to Seder night feeling like the Queens we are, encapsulated by the holiness of the holiday? What can we do to feel excited that Pesach is coming, even when it brings so much work – cleaning, shopping, cooking…. (are you feeling the stress yet?) When we light candles on Seder night, how can we say the Shechiyanu blessing with joy that the holiday has begun, and not just that the preparations are over?
The funny thing about happiness is that we expect it to come from the outside – someone or something will make us happy. The reality is though, that joy really starts within. When we make ourselves happy then the world around us can also make us happy. It is like the very first Pesach that took place in Egypt – in order for the Jews to be taken out of slavery and be made free, they had to sit in their homes and act as if they were already free – eating a full meal in the ways of rich and noble people. One of the most fascinating things about that night was that they eat matzah and marror to remember their enslavement – in their minds they were already free! And it was that mindset that then allowed them to actually be free by morning. The way then for us to get to Pesach happy is to ensure we are making ourselves happy throughout the whole process – by being sure to do three things every day that we enjoy. My coach, Laura Doyle, calls this self care – the first, indispensable skill for having joy and connection in life.
Self care can be a challenge in the calmest of moments. It may seem totally out of the question now! But without it, we run the risk of losing the meaning behind it all. We can become so tired and worn out that we feel we are running in circles getting nothing done. Or we yell at our husbands or children or parents, those whom we love and most want to enjoy the holiday with. Or we begin to dread and resent the holiday itself and miss the incredible messages it holds for understanding and remembering why we keep any of the mitzvoth that Hashem has given us. If you feel you need some help knowing how or when or why to keep up your daily practice of making yourself happy, you are welcome to make a time for us to talk and I will be happy to support you!
Rosh Chodesh Nissan has come and gone. The menu plans and shopping lists are being written. The lines at the supermarkets are forming. The crumbs in every crevice of our home are calling. The text messages for clothing sales are beeping on our phones. And soon school will be out and the children will still need to be fed, bathed and payed some attention. And business continues and the bills still need to be paid.
And through it all remember your own happiness! Don’t forget to keep up your self care through the next few very busy weeks – because it is the motor that will keep us going. It is what will allow us to sit down at the Seder not as Cinderella in her rags, exhausted and waiting for it to be over so we can finally go to sleep without dreaming of cleaning wipes and all the different ways to cook a potato, but as Cinderella in her gown – glowing, beautiful and chosen by the Prince at the ball. There is a tradition on Seder night to read Shir Hashirim in order to remind us that the night is about our being chosen by Hashem and us being so in love with Him that we followed Him out to the desert with complete trust and dedication. I bless us all that on that night we are able to feel that intimacy and connection with Hashem and our families and that rather than sleeping through it, we feel alert and roused with happiness and joy!
Wishing you a chag kasher v’samayach,