Isn’t it great? Spring is here! The flowers, trees, animals, birds and all aspects of life are starting to wake up.
While our Catholic brothers and sisters are in the midst of Lent, Jews around the world are starting to anticipate our great spring festival, Passover, which is just around the corner.
Also known as Chag Ha-Aviv, the Festival of Spring, this is the holiday that is observed by more Jews than any other — even more than the High Holidays.
It’s one of the Sholosha Regalim, the three festivals of pilgrimage to ancient Jerusalem, along with Sukkot and Shavuot, and most people are relatively familiar with the story of the Passover. It is the slavery of our Hebrew ancestors and their journey out of Egypt and into freedom.
But that was a long time ago, right? We’re now free people living in the U.S.A., and isn’t this festival merely a remembrance of something that took place centuries ago?
Our sages teach that Passover is a “metahistorical” holiday, meaning that it is simultaneously a remembrance of an historical event and a teaching for all of us in these modern times.
We are all slaves. Although we may not admit it, it is true.
Whether it is to our work, our obligations, our addictions, our fears, our passions or any obsessive aspect of our life. We are all slaves to something.
Passover is a time to take a deep look at ourselves and see where we’ve become lost, where we’ve set up “idols” in our lives.
Modern idols may not be clay images of Egyptian deities, but they are idols all the same.
How many of us don’t make time for our families, our community or our personal spiritual lives because we “need” to do something else? We’ve all heard and said it, and the reasons sound good at the time. And we’ve all seen the results.
How many people do we know just “had” to go spend more time in the office so that they might make a little more money and missed their children growing up and their babies’ first steps?
How many people felt compelled to go to that business dinner, or even watch that television show that they look forward to each week. Despite popular belief, “Game of Thrones” really is only a TV show. As a result, they lost important time that they could have spent holding, listening and truly being with their spouse.
Many of us are guilty of choosing to sleep just a few minutes longer (the Hasidic sages teach that this is one of the temptations of the evil inclination) rather than showing up for morning services on Saturday or Sunday and letting our souls be moved by the beautiful liturgy and words of our respective faith tradition.
Or maybe we are still a slave to our grief caused by the loss of a loved one years ago.
The pain never goes away, but shouldn’t we honor their lives by finishing the year of mourning and then choosing to embrace life, community and God to the best of our ability?
Yes, we are all slaves to something.
Passover is a time to become more aware of those patterns and to choose to let go of them and embrace the freedom of growth, joy and love.
Like the plants that have been dormant for months and are now breaking free of the dirt above them in order to flower, we also must choose to let our souls come out of our personal darkness and begin to shine.
And that’s what it is really all about: growth and joy.
Spring is the time to take a new look at ourselves, to take stock in our accomplishments as well as re-evaluate how we need to grow.
It is a time to pause and appreciate the deep beauty around us rather than be distracted by false priorities. It is an opportunity to rededicate ourselves to the growth of our souls.
May we all be blessed to grow, to let go of our false idols, to appreciate the wonders of life and to embrace the joys of freedom together as individuals and as a community.
And may this Passover bring new light and freedom into all of our lives.
“People ask me what I do in winter when there’s no baseball. I’ll tell you what I do. I stare out the window and wait for spring!” Roger Hornsby said.
Rabbi Michael Barclay is the spiritual leader of Temple Ner Simcha, www.nersimcha.org and the author of “Sacred Relationships: Biblical Wisdom for Deepening Our Lives Together.” He is a member of the Conejo Valley Interfaith Association, which meets monthly and welcomes clergy and representatives of all religious faiths. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.