Not ‘letting go’ — but trying to: A Pesach paradox
“Letting Go,” a refrain my yoga teacher and rabbi often like to say, doesn’t always resonate. I’m 58 and a half, but the inner voice of mine has already skipped over 59 and is already struggling with the idea of being a 60 year old fitness trainer. People can say it’s just a number, but I’m not letting go of the fact that it’s an important number that has meaning. And, on Pesach eve when we are commanded to retell the story of the Jewish People becoming a free nation, an integral part of being Jewish, I would suggest, is not letting go, but rather remembering the past as it helps to form our identity as a Nation. We mention the escape from Egypt every Shabbat while saying Kiddush and Jews pray for the rebuilding of Jerusalem every day. Jews don’t let go.
People don’t let go. I hear countless stories from my social work students who work with people reliving traumas of the past. People often learn to let go of past hurts, but it’s often a long, painful and difficult process fraught with a myriad of emotional highs and lows. Being in the moment and letting go, two phrases one often hears in Yoga and the New Age genre, sounds, at times, a bit glib – from a Jewish and human perspective.
But, I believe we need to try.
In the Siddur, daily we remember and long for Jerusalem. But we are also reminded that each day is new one when we read from Tehilim ק”ד (מחדש בכל יום תמיד מעשה בראשי– Each day is renewed continually as if from the beginning of creation). We also let go of the past at the end of Shabbat and ‘Mavdil,’ making a distinction between the week ending and the week beginning. We begin anew and greet people with the phrase Shavuah Tov — May it be a good week. No matter what happened last week, regardless of any past traumas, there is hope for the coming week; opportunities to let go of what transpired and to focus on a new beginning. We have a gift — we can let go and try again.
Years ago when my yoga teacher urged me to let go, I responded by saying, “I’m trying.” That’s your problem, my teacher responded. Perhaps. But I would posit that Pesach and the human condition engages the paradox of concomitantly remembering the past and moving forward. Of accepting the past and seeking new vistas for the future. Of thinking about turning 60 and enjoying and living my life intensely in the moment.
As we usher in the Pesach holiday, we tell an ancient story as we create a new reality. We live in an independent Jewish polity, with all its flaws, because Jews held onto the past for centuries, but then let go of past traumas and dreams in order to build something new.
On this Pesach holiday, may we all treasure the quintessential Afikomen gift of remembering and creating — let’s try together; as a nation and as individuals.
Meir Charash, MSW and Fitness Trainer