Pesach took a lot more work than I was able to put in. Somehow I managed to make it to the point where I was able to say good enough, even though it was well short of the low bar I set for myself this year. The hardest part was when I found this during Bedikah Chamezt:
Rachel had bought it for me many years ago for when I was having a hard time at work. Of course that brought back memories of the smile card that lives in my wallet. It was not so long ago, Rachel found out I still had it. She thought it had been lost a long time ago.
Thinking about these two items took everything out of me. I sat down and started to cry. Channah hates when I cry and always tries to get me to stop. I try not to cry too much because it really hurts because of the problem with my eye. She managed to calm me down with a hug. I was ready to call it a night unable to face kashering and the kitchen. A friend told me to take deep breaths and get back to cleaning which would keep me busy. I decided to get the Pesach boxes out of storage. As I was moving the boxes, I was having trouble breathing. It was not from the lifting but the emotional sting of missing Rachel. Which of course made me think of this song:
Somehow I managed to make it through. I made sure I got to the shul because I am a bachor. I accidentally attended a Bris. The Rabbi wanted to talk to me and I knew if I had left it for later in the day it probably would not happen.
We spent the Seder with cousins who we went to for our first 2 years in Israel before, they moved outside of walking distance. I thought it was a brilliant choice when Channah came up with the idea. It was very comforting being in a familiar environment with family. There were two defining moments that really struck a chord of encouragement that I hope will stay with me in terms of what I am facing in the coming weeks, months and hopefully longer.
As intro to the Seder the host talked about the importance of reliving the story of Pesach every year. It is a way of establishing that we are the Jewish People. He drew the parallel to the Holocaust and the importance of remembering and retelling the story, so it doesn't lose it's meaning.
It made me think about my Grandmother who had everything taken from her including her husband and 3 year old son. My Grandfather liberated her from the camps, helped her back to health and were married in 3 weeks. My Mom was born in a DP camp and his good friend (who died shortly before Rachel) gave his milk rations to my Mom so that she could be healthy. They rebuilt their lives but she always kept a picture of her son on the wall.
The Seder isn't complete until we discuss the Symbolism of Pesach, Matzah and Maror. Pesach is to remember the korban that we are no longer able to bring because of the destruction of the Beit HaMikdash. Every year we remember that destruction through the stages of mourning the same way we remember a loved one. When I go to the Kotel I tear kriyah to remember the destruction. Food is an integral part of Jewish identity. Matzah represents both poverty and freedom while Maror represents the bitterness of the suffering we endured. We bring these foods together right after declaring Dayenu followed by Hallel. The Hallel combined with the 2nd cup of wine was described as a toast to Hashem. We offer a toast of thanks and immediately remember how hard it was to reach this point.
The concept of 'moving on' has been a frequent topic as of late. Am I going to fast? Am I going too slow? Am I doing it right? I always thought that 'moving on' meant putting the tragedies of the last two years behind me. I now realize that is not the case. Moving on means rebuilding again but taking those tragedies with me into whatever new direction my life will take. I have the opportunity to build on the dreams of my ancestors to raise a Jewish family in the land that was promised to our forefathers so many generations ago. Rachel and Gabi will always play an upfront roll in that process, even if they are not physically here to do it with me. This idea has brought confidence and comfort towards some of the challenges I am about to face.
The 2nd moment came form the hostess. There have those who have been concerned and in some cases critical in my ability to be a parent. The entire night there were two moments where Channah's handling of herself would not have met their approval. One of those moments our hostess turned to be me and said "Don't worry my kids do the exact same thing." There was nothing particularly insightful in the statement. I have been around a lot of different families in the last few months to see different types of kids and parenting styles. My response was that the behaviour did not bother me. The truth is the validation did mean a lot to me, even if it is not the first time I have heard it. The confident I am in my parenting the better prepared I am to make decisions of what is in Channah's best interest even if those decisions are not popular.
Pesach is about remembering the passed to bring hope for the future. At least that is the lesson I am walking away with this year.