It’s time to get ready for Passover.

We need all the liberation we can get this year! Freedom to serve, to live and build our dream, which is to participate in the liberation of others, individuals, peoples, the earth and all beings. 

In the winter of 1995, just after graduating Dartmouth, I was working as an admin assistant in NYC.  Day after day, I walked home from 26th and 1st to 36th and 5th, feeling totally alone. Leaving this situation, depressed and confused, was my personal equivalent to the Israelites leaving Egypt.  I didn’t know where I was going, but I knew I had to get out. Don’t know what’s next, but not this… 

About a month later, I signed up to be a volunteer with the Frontier Nursing Service, where the first midwives in America served in the Appalachian muntains of Kentucky. On March 25, 1995, 29 years ago today, my grandparents’ gold oldsmobile darted through the brown hills, which were just beginning to burst forth with fresh green leaves. Soon after, I awakened to the joy of being alive.  “just regular old spring!?  Where have I been all my life!?”  God was in the sprouting of the buds, the babies I watched being born, and the birthing of my own renewed soul. I responded to the call of Bob Marley to emancipate yourself from inner slavery, while I delivered x-rays from outlying clinics to the 40-bed hospital, I sang out loud with the Indigo Girls: How long ’til my soul gets it right? Can any human being ever reach that kind of light?   In those early adult years, I learned something about when to leave, when to stay put, when to let go and when to keep walking. I discovered an inner voice that compels us toward freedom, toward wholeness, toward integrity in every moment and in every situation. I’ll never forget overlooking the creek in Hyden, Kentucky, my new friend Janet Feltner responded to my concern that I might forget what I had learned in the tiny town of 500, where I experienced my first true personal Exodus story.  She said, if you forget, then you never really learned. The waters below us, flowing and filled with life, solidified what I knew to be my deepest Truth. I am Free, Alive and Here to serve the Source of my Freedom and Aliveness.  

Each year since that year, whenever I see buds forming and anticipate Pesach coming, I remember my own original personal coming out of Egypt.  The feeling of liberation is etched in my soul and in the historic memory, the soul of my people.  Passover is our people’s birth story.  The hagadah teaches b’chol dor vador “In every generation all human beings must look upon ourselves as if we ourselves go forth from slavery.” Each of us must discover the story of the Exodus unfolding in our own bodies, hearts, minds and souls.  It was not long after those deeply transformative Kentucky days that I realized that the story doesn’t end after we are brought out of Egypt or in Hebrew, mitzrayim, which can be translated as “out of a narrow place.” I remember noticing that phone calls began coming in instead of going out as people began to ask ME (?!) for support. We are asked to exchange our slavery for something else: SERVICE. 

Whenever we can, which is more than we might like to accept, we must look beyond ourselves and respond to the needs of others. It is written in the 3rd paragraph of the shma:  Ani adonai eloheychem asher hotzeiti etchem meeretz mitrayim lihiot lachem l’elohim. I am the Holy One your God who brought you out of the land of your narrowness in order to God you.   In each moment that we are brought out of the narrows of Mitzrayim, we are not just set free.  We are set free TO SERVE. We are brought out of Egypt in order to say: Hineni!  Here I am! Ready to report to duty.   But, Being HUMAN, we regress.  Constantly. Every year I am amazed that our ancestors and creators of our Jewish calendar galvanized on the inherent nature of springtime by mapping the story of our Exodus from Egypt onto this season. The integration of this formational historic event with the spring time allows us to USE THE POWER of SPRING to keep our freedom and our faith alive. Passover is the gateway between winter and spring, between introspection and expression.   On the second day of Passover we stop praying for rain, and look to see what the winter rains have yielded in the world and in our souls.  And if we are halfway paying attention to the miracle of spring, we can not help but open up again to luminosity and new love. 

On Passover, we read Song of Songs, the central text of our tradition, the Holy of Holies. The Song reminds us to place Love at the Center. Of Everything. What would it mean for you to shift your life (for real!) to place, prioritize and progress towards Love at the Center?  The rituals of Pesach remind us that we must not forget why we descended in to mitzrayim in the first place.  YERIDA L’SHEM ALIYAH, GOING DOWN IN ORDER TO COME UP is the Hasidic concept that the more deeply we journey inward, the further we can now reach outside of ourselves. Now is not the time for introspection — that was fall and winter.  Now is the time for EXpression. And whatever you think is not good enough in you or whenever you think you’re not ready for full self expression, let the practice of making space (cleaning and cleaning out the hametz!) for eating (and being!) matzah remind you that there is really nothing to do, to fix or to change.  The essence of you –the matzah —  is ready.  Don’t ruin its power by over-preparing, over-preserving or over-protecting.  

The Israelites didn’t go back to Egypt year after year to relive their first Exodus. That episode was over.  Instead, they brought and we bring the essence of the story with us wherever we go, and every single day re-mind our souls in the daily practices and  liturgy (because we forget!) that the core of our being is inherently free to serve the One who places Love at the Center. Be that One. Be Love – just for today – and you will be a builder of blessings, a co-creator and co-author of Creation, of a new world that works for everyone + all beings will be free.