Making Pesach Beautiful and Meaningful
You gotta love a broad topic like this. I’m going to approach this idea in the same way that I like to approach everything, with a well-rounded, body-soul holistic experience. How do we make things physically beautiful, spiritually beautiful, and emotionally beautiful? Gosh, now that I’m writing this, it’s quite a tall order that I am giving myself, but let’s give it a go.
Physical beauty: Although this may come across as the simplest, or most straightforward, of the three, I think there is real nuance here. Beauty is not black and white, it’s in the eye of the beholder. I think that our society in general is really trying to move toward a more fluid, accepting, standard. Take body image for example (I know this is supposed to be about Pesach, bear with me here :)), we are still extremely influenced by images and expectations that are unrealistic and unhealthy, and not accepting of all body types. Yet, people are slowly bringing other ideas to the table, more so than ever before, and I’m all for it! We need to ease off the pressure on ourselves of what we think we need to be, how we are supposed to look. Trying to live up to all these unrealistic expectations, frankly, don’t do us any good or make us happy.
When I talk about creating a physically beautiful environment for Pesach this is what I want the message to be. Create an environment that’s beautiful for YOU! Not what your neighbor is doing, not what the million vendors who are telling you exactly what you need to create a beautiful table-scape are shoving down your throat. What sparks joy? What lights you up? What means something to you? If you know me, I love a good table setup, someone else maybe wants to focus more on what you’re going to wear at the Seder, someone else is into fancy gourmet food dishes and so on. There is no wrong or right way to express and enjoy the holiday of Pesach with physical beauty. So, I ask of you, spend a minute to reflect on what brings you truejoy and put your energy into that!
Ok next up, our emotions. I don’t know about you but the weeks leading up to Pesach can really put me into some serious emotional spirals. I was talking to my therapist today and they said to me, “every year you tell me that you can’t do it, it’s too overwhelming, and you’re not going to survive, and every year I tell you, yes it’s hard, yes its overwhelming, but you got this, you will do it, you will survive”
So firstly, we need a cheering squad (at least I do) whether it’s our husbands, our mothers, our therapists, or all the above. We need someone to tell us that we’ve got this! I have your back, while at the same time acknowledging how hard this is, and how scary it feels. I tell my husband all the time, that he just needs to tell me that I’m amazing like 100 times a day ;).
At risk of sounding like a broken tape recorder, I also want to mention that being emotionally present and healthy takes a lot of work, time, and effort. I have been on that journey for years and I can say that every year it gets a little better, I have a collection of tools, and it makes a real difference. I encourage you to create that toolbox for yourself, what are the coping skills you can pull out of the inner drawer when you’re at the end of your rope. I have a blog post that goes into more depth about this, but I’ll mention a few here to get you going.
- Pause, feel whatever emotion that’s coming up for you, thank your body for bringing it to your attention; feel it, acknowledge it, and then have a mantra that gives you the energy to redirect. Something like, “I know this is hard, but I have the tools to handle it”, come up with something that resonates with you, that doesn’t deny the reality, that doesn’t lead to toxic positivity, but at the same time doesn’t allow you to be stuck, and empowers you to keep going.
- Breathe, Breathe, Breathe! I cannot say this enough times! Sometimes the simplest things are the answer. There are many types of breath work, some are calming, some activate and get you going. Identify your needs and find a practice that fits. YouTube has a ton of options.
- Step outside, if possible, get your feet in the grass, sun on your face, some fresh air. Even just a few minutes can do you wonders.
I specifically mention these 3 because during the Pesach craziness I truly believe that these are accessible, don’t take a lot of time and can be done at any time throughout the day.
When you take the time to take care of your emotions you can truly have an emotionally beautiful Yom Tov.
Finally, our beautiful spiritual soul. We can’t forget to take care of it.
I have been immersed in giving two Tanya classes a week, which makes Tanya concepts at the forefront of my mind. Recently I taught chapter 49 which talks about the concept of the exodus from Egypt. This topic is mentioned in connection to creating a love for Hashem. If we think about how much Hashem loves us, illustrated by the fact that Hashem Himself took us out of Egypt, it’s mind-blowing! Even though we were at the lowest point in our spiritual lives, He brought us to Mount Sinai in a mere 40 days, reaching the highest spiritual point for humanity to ever exist. This meditation will automatically produce a reciprocal love, because if we feel loved, then we feel loving.
This is all nice and dandy, but the exodus from Egypt was a very long time ago. To be able to create such a real tangible love from something that we don’t remember experiencing (yes, are souls were there…) is a tall order. So, the Alter Rebbe says in Tanya that every single day, every single one of us experiences our own personal Exodus. Every time we transcend our nature, every time we make room for G-d by doing His will i.e., learning Torah and doing Mitzvos, we are loving Hashem in the way that He loves us. Hashem came down into this world to have a relationship with us by condensing and constricting himself, which is the ultimate act of love. We love him back by doing the same.
So, while we toil and shvitz, cleaning our homes, peeling potatoes, grating Maror, we are experiencing a transcendent relationship with Hashem. It’s not how we would necessarily choose to spend our time, but we’re doing it because that’s what Hashem asks of us, creating this mutually loving relationship. It doesn’t get more beautiful than that!
May we all experience the ultimate beautiful Pesach with the coming of Mashiach now!