Passover, bondage, liberation..and my husband, Glen

It is a wet, cold, rainy evening in Toronto, as I sit here, ruminating about the festival that begins tomorrow evening.

Passover.

But I’m not thinking mundane thoughts-like how long the seders will be –(actually, we are going to one really Reform and one Uber-Orthodox…for sure, different lengths!) or how much matzah one will consume, or or… o.k., enough!

No. I am delving into the true concept of Pesach- the idea of Bondage (NOT that kind of bondage!) and Liberation.

Not the ones highlighted in the Haggada either.

Rather, the ones WE — you and me — face and deal with, the bondage that cripples our abilities to achieve, to strive, TO BE who and what we aspire to be.

This IS the time. This is the time that is provided to us by our Torah, by our teachings, by our faith to explore this dilemma, this challenge, this most human of conditions.

It is the time to strive for personal liberation.

I have been very focused on this year, because of my husband.

(And, once again, not THAT kind of bondage!)

My husband has become my hero as I watch him deal with — and surmount — that which binds him, that which curtails him, that which “enslaves” him.

His father died last summer. That is in and of itself quite a lot to deal with, but when you compound that with the fact that we live in Canada and his whole family — including his father — live(d) in South Africa, twenty hours away by flight, and that, furthermore, his relationship with his father was, delicately put, not wonderful, you can appreciate that this has truly been a very difficult time.

So here is my husband, dealing with the death of his father who had “disowned” him, because our children have double barrel last names — yes, that was the reason — and dealing with the turmoil and confusion of having been isolated from his family because of his father’s position and then having to deal with his obligation of saying kaddish for his father.

My husband is one of the most decent and respectful people on this planet and of course he chose to say kaddish, regardless of the circumstances of their relationship, which is, in and of itself quite something — but it is not only his commitment to say kaddish that is exemplary — it is in the way that he is doing so which has provided him with his opportunity to experience his own liberation.

We belong to two synagogues — one, which we recently helped create as founders, a new concept called The Song Shul, and the other one, which is much more orthodox in nature and in practice, an AISH synagogue called The Village Shul.

My husband is by nature a quiet, reserved and rather shy person. He is not one to make a big noise or be noticed or bring attention to himself. He is not one to jump up and do things that he believes are of any importance spontaneously; he never wants to disappoint anyone and will practice and perfect whatever he does until he gets it right. He is thoughtful and careful and committed, so when he undertakes a task, he does so with intention. He prefers being out of the limelight, being “in the wings” and hidden in the background.

To fully understand his scenario you also have to know that I am his complete antithesis in this respect. I am so out there and in your face that I am (affectionately) known as “the iron fist in the velvet glove”. I am always on a mission, I am insanely involved in politics and causes and any scenario where I feel that I can help bring about some justice. I can — and do — stand in front of thousands of people and make speeches, organize rallies, make noise and get movement on whatever needs to move — and he is always my bodyguard, protecting me quietly.

I am truly a pitbull with lipstick and he has made it his mission to ensure that I don’t get caught by the dogcatcher!

For him to get up and put himself on the spot is akin to me skydiving — just not the place I want to be and certainly not somewhere I would be comfortable.

My husband was raised in a home that was “Jewish Lite” — certainly not kosher, certainly no emphasis on learning how to read Hebrew, let alone “daven” (pray in Hebrew) and certainly no commitment to Jewish “obligations” –like kaddish.

So when my husband was asked by Orthodox rabbis to daven “Mincha” and Maariv” at an AISH synagogue with a plethora of “frumies” listening – and judging — every single syllable, every single pronunciation, every single nuance of a word — is, to put it bluntly, not terribly comfortable for him.

It really brings his inner demons into focus for him, up front and personal — being corrected, being assessed, being criticized, being “judged”.

I watch him as he rehearses, he reviews, he practices — and then goes off to shul and “goes for it”.

The pride and sense of accomplishment that he shares with us, his family, is so gratifying and fulfilling. To others, it might not seem like this is a big deal — but to those of us who know and love him, we understand the enormity of what breaking through his own personal barriers mean.

I am so proud of him for it. It seems like such a small task, but for him, it really is a challenge. For him, to break through his restrictions and allow himself to be scrutinized and assessed, corrected or “judged”, is enormous.

It is in the doing, it is in the accomplishing, it is in the “going for it” that we break our chains, our restrictions, our bondage.

So, my gift for us all is …May we all remove our chains and restrictions and bondage and move on to bigger and better, always and forever.

And to my husband, Glen, Mazal Tov to you for conquering your doubts, dealing with your demons and for climbing over your own personal barriers and mountains. Amen.

Wishing everyone an empowering and meaningful Passover.

About the Author
Vivienne Grace Ziner is a vociferous and outspoken activist, advocate, writer and speaker for international human rights, the global advancement of human dignity and the cause of Israel and the Jewish people.
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