The dishes are put away. The kids are back in school. The guest beds have been stripped. The pantry has been restocked with every sort of bread, cracker, and cookie imaginable (so much for going gluten-free!). The house is slowly returning to its irregularly regular self. I’m recovering, and taking stock of the whole Pesach experience. Loads of concentrated family time. Connection and fighting. Bliss and frustration. Harmony and chaos. Laughter. Tears. Learning. With all its warts, it’s truly a magnificent thing to raise a Jewish family. We are an incredible people and we are heirs to the most spectacular heritage in the world. It’s been three weeks of scrubbing, scouring, cooking, baking, mediocre parenting and non-stop meal preparing and of course I’m tired. But more importantly, I feel grateful and privileged to be part of such an awesome people with such a powerful sense of destiny and purpose.
Pesach is so all-consuming (it pretty much starts after Purim and is only really ending tonight…) that it’s easy to forget that it’s only the beginning of a soul journey that begins with physical liberation from Egypt and culminates, seven weeks later, with Shavuot and true spiritual liberation, when the Jewish people received the Torah at Mount Sinai.
More than any other time of year, it’s the time to put the spotlight on internal freedom.
How free are we, really?
Although we live in the sweet land of liberty, where the rights of the individual are sacrosanct, I don’t think there’s ever been a time where true internal freedom is more elusive.
Slavery comes in many forms. We are a nation where almost every member struggles with soft addictions, a term aptly coined by lifestyles expert Judith Wright. Almost all of us engage in seemingly benign habits like over-spending, over-eating, misuse of the Internet and a paralyzing inability to detach from our phones. We can even be addicted to mental habits, like procrastination, negativity and gossip. We don’t usually hit rock bottom, which is why so many of us fail to grasp the degree to which our energy for the more important priorities of our lives has been robbed from us. We are distracted, insecure and not at peace with ourselves.
From a Jewish perspective, this state is not new. Ever since the beginning of creation when Adam and Eve ate from the forbidden tree, we’ve had a hard time relating to “stuff” in a healthy way. We misuse, abuse and take more than we need. We calm ourselves by indulging, instead of looking inward for strength.
There’s nothing new under the sun…and yet we have never lived in such challenging times.
Now is the time to take a deeper look and be honest with yourself. What seemingly harmless habits are keeping you from engaging more deeply, from communicating more effectively and from living your life in the greatest, kindest and most Godly way possible?
Remember, all of our stuff – our phones, our apps, our gadgets, our money, our Facebook account, our jobs, food, leisure and everything else – is meant to improve our lives, not control our lives.
The moment that something external has control over you is the moment that you are not free from it.
That is the critical difference. And in the seven weeks from Passover to Shavuot, from physical liberation to true internal liberation, becoming a truly free person is what it’s all about.
With love and blessing for lives lived with true freedom,
Posted on: Thursday, April 24th, 2014
Author: Ali Begoun
About: Ali is a longtime Jewish educator and popular life and relationships coach. Anyone who has learned with Ali will testify to her warm and connective style and her ability to make Judaism relatable and relevant to our personal lives. Ali teaches a wide array of Jewish topics, but her primary focus is on the Jewish approach to self esteem, personal growth, women’s issues and relationships. In addition to her popular classes, Ali also offers private life coaching sessions, personal growth groups for Jewish women, a Bat Mitzvah club for girls and an upcoming fully subsidized trip to Israel in October, 2014. Ali and Rabbi David are the proud parents of Chana, Talia, Aryeh Leib, Eliezer and Yosef.