The Torah tells us that before the departure from the land of Egypt, “it was a night of watching unto God for all the children of Israel throughout the generations” (Exodus 12:42).
The eve of Peasch is a night of waiting, a time of anticipation. What are we supposed to be watching for? The dangers that lie ahead? Who of us knows where or how the journey into the desert will end? For those who are ill, the question takes on an urgent meaning. The Search for Chametz
Chametz comes in many forms. The preparation of the house for Passover may tax my limited physical strength, but the search for bread crumbs is easy compared to cleaning out my head of all that is not spiritually kosher for Pesach.
The rabbis said that leaven symbolizes the yetzer ha’ra, the evil inclination, and getting rid of chametz is a way of spiritually purging ourselves.
It’s not easy. Into what locked cabinet do I put all the pain and struggle that have made the last year so difficult? Lighting the Candles
On Pesach, we not only recite the customary blessing as we light the candles, thanking God for sanctifying our lives, but we also say the Shehecheyanu, praising God for sustaining us and for enabling us to reach this day.
As I recite the blessing, I realize that too seldom do I acknowledge the ways in which I feel the Divine Presence in my life, even when I am ill. Karpas
At seders past, I have felt that the salt water in which I dipped the springs of parsley was made from my tears. The bondage of illness has seemed at times so overwhelming that tears were the only possible response.
But salt is also a thing of value. Because it is a preservative, it is a symbol of permanence, like the convenant that God has made with all of us and each of us. The salt water has a marvelous taste. Ha lachma anya: This is the Bread of Affliction
Did the wise rabbis, who established the form of the seder, know how deeply those words can touch those who are ill? The matzah is not only a reminder of the slavery endured by the Israelites in Egypt, but it symbolizes our own slavery. It is an acknowledgment of the suffering we have endured in our lives.
Everyone sitting at the Passover seder is commanded to see themselves as slaves in Egypt, to live and relive the experience, to feel both the terror and the joy as we start out on a journey into the uncharted wilderness. My experience of illness has made it easy for me to summon up the terror of the unknown. But what if I haven’t the energy to remember the joy?
But I know that matzah is also the bread of redemption, for its holds out the promise that like our ancestors, we can anticipate the exhilaration of spiritual freedom even in the midst of physical bondage.
“In every generation, every person should feel as though she or he had actually been redeemed from Egypt.” Ma nishtana halayla hazeh mikol halayot?
Why is this night different from all other nights? At the core of the Passover seder is a question; and it has often seemed to me that although the whole of the Haggadah is devoted to answering that question, we each have to provide our own answers, and sometimes even our own questions.
At the same time, the daily struggle of living with illness may make it hard to even ask the “Ma nishtanah,” for the pain and struggle can impose a deadening sameness on both the days and the nights that often seems impossible to escape.
And what do I do when I realize that the kinds of questions I want to ask don’t seems to have any answers?
I find it a source of great comfort that the Talmud says that any question fulfills the purpose and makes the “Ma nishtanah” unnecessary. Arba Banim: The four children
I am the wise child and the wicked child: I am the simple child and the child who does not know how to ask.
Is there any wisdom that illness has brought me? I don’t know. Does my rage in the face of pains isolate me from the community and thus make me wicked? I hope not.
I am the simple child who wants to know if there is any reason why this had happened to me. There is no answer to that question. And sometimes I am so despairing that even asking any question seems beyond my capability. Maror and Charoset: the Bitter and the Sweet
At every seder, the experience is different. Sometimes the sharp, almost painful, bite of the maror blocks out completely the pleasurable taste of the charoset.
But more often, the sweetness of the charoset somewhat rises upto overcome the sharpness. And I know that there is also much sweetness in may life, even in the midst of affliction.