Last night I attended Mimouna festivities at a good friend’s home. Mimouna is a special Morrocan Jewish festival with Moufletas and other pastries and sweets celebrating, not the Freedom and Spiritual highs of Passover, rather the return to mundane Chametz. With all the Mimouna hype possibly begging the question, I asked anyway. Do Morrocans look forward more to the Freedom-themed Seder or to the more routine life signified by Mimouna.
Surprise answer? Mimouna!
This morning, for the first time in a week, my street was littered with pizza cartons, evidence of our return to routine food and activities.
I felt a spiritual high this week of Passover, beginning with a Seder last Monday and concluding with yesterday’s euphoric singing at our “New Song” congregation, Shira Hadasha, where a beautiful happy young couple celebrated their engagement. I reminisced my own happiness at weddings and Bar/Bat Mitzvahs, and making Aliya.
Later I heard a possible Freudian Slip remark about this being the season we move from Freedom to Slavery (rather than slavery to freedom). It dawned on me that our biggest concern should be how we can hold onto enough of the good feelings and memories to … survive the ordinary period (which some liken to slavery).
As a child in the US, I remember the 3-day drive from New York to Florida. The first day we were excited about setting out. On the third day we looked forward to arriving. The the middle day, was the most difficult, where we only covered ground awaking in a motel, driving and going to sleep in another motel, on the road.
Our choice and order of Torah readings for Passover remind us of the challenge of the ordinary symbolized by Chametz. The first and last (7th) days are euphoric with miracle of the exodus and crossing the Red Sea. On the Intermediate (Hol Hamoed) Saturday we flash-forward to a Torah reading about forgiveness after the Children of Israel’s insecurity at Moses’ absense led them to sin by making a Golden Calf.
Why is that passage, reserved for Fast Days, also read in our universal freedom holiday right after King Solomon’s intensely romantic (some say erotic) Song of Songs? To remind us that our real achievements do not come from the heady days of liberation from slavery, romance, or dancing with [Moses’ sister] Miriam to celebrate miracles. Rather through navigating our way through the ordinary Chametz times.
We bask in our conquests. Farmers slash-and-burn jungles to grow crops. The initial bounty is soon followed by the land no longer able to sustain any crops leading those same slash-and-burn farmers to abandon the fields they conquered. Developers plunder the environment to build homes increasingly out of the financial reach of the very population that provides the city its lifeblood. Revolutionary furvor stalls in the challenge of cleaning up and making the trains run on time.
The empires conquered by King David, Alexander the Great, Macabbees, and Romans faltered in the hands of successors primarly charged with maintaining a sustainable, caring home for their citizens.
Romantic relationships founder when partners get stuck in the details on the ground and forget the fireworks that once lit up the sky.
And that’s the lesson of Saturday’s Torah reading and our return to Chametz today. The spiritual high and abstentions of Yom Kippur and Passover are always followed by a return to the long haul. It is in our spiritual Chametz where we are really challenged to live, cover ground and build our sustainable environment and future.
And our period of Counting the Omer is like the middle day of the drive, covering ground between 1 festive occassion (Passover) and the concluding festival Shavuot (Pentecost) where we receive the Torah.
Wishing us all Sustainability through Chametz!