Feeling the Freedom

Looking back to the end of last year’s Pesach seder, I never realized “Next year in Jerusalem” would actually come to fruition. This year, spending Passover in Israel and with Mayanot, I will be asking a 5th question, “How is this seder different than seders from years past?” and I’ll have a lot of answers. Pesach has always been my favorite holiday but this year it is on a whole new level.

I’ve spent the past three months learning at Mayanot Women’s Program. The past few weeks have been “Pesach boot camp” and I have loved every second of it. I feel like I’ve actually prepared for the holiday, for the Exodus. In years past, I’ve always been distracted with the cleaning, the food, the Seders, the fun of Pesach, all of the external, “written” parts of the holiday. I actually never really thought about the true meaning of the holiday itself. I would skim over the Haggadah and read the words but I would never process the story. This year is different. 

In Ulpan, I learned the actual meaning of the words in the Ma Nishtana and Pesach songs. In Halacha, I learned the laws of Pesach given to us directly from the Torah. In Talmud, I learned Gemaras on the holiday. In Chassidus, I learned about the deeper meaning of matzah and the four sons. In niggun class, I learned Vehi Sheamdah. We even had a mock Seder! So this year I’m coming with my bags packed full of knowledge, ready to leave Egypt. There’s no way I will miss the story ever again because now this knowledge has been engraved into me.

I find it fascinating that the theme of Pesach is freedom when at times it seems so restricting. When Moshe brought down the the Ten Commandments from Mount Sinai, they weren’t just written onto the two tablets, they were engraved into them.  They were etched into the physical tablets so they would literally become a part of them. Not by coincidence, the Hebrew word for engraved and freedom are spelled exactly the same, just with different vowels.  This comes to teach us that Judaism is externally written on us and cannot be chipped or smudged away. It can feel burdensome at times because the letters on the exterior are separate from the actual person within. However, when a Jew engraves themselves internally with their Yiddishkeit (Judaism), so it becomes “who I am”, that is the ultimate redemption. To know that Yiddishkeit is etched within my being so I cannot only, never be separated from it, but I am defined by it, that is the ultimate redemption.

So to with this year’s Pesach I feel like all the learning, all the spiritual preparation we have done at Mayanot has truly allowed me to etch the answers, the feeling of freedom and the meaning behind Pesach on my heart. L’chaim my friends to being engraved this Pesach! May we all merit to feel an internal freedom and a literal freedom with the 5th cup of wine and Moshiach! 

By: Stephanie Blitshtein, current Mayanot Women’s program student