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Home » Passover

Passover – A Fourteen Step Ritual

Submitted by on March 21, 2006 – 5:29 pmNo Comment | 3,872 views

Pre Passover Preparation

Once again Passover is on the horizon and, in Jewish homes, the air is filled with excitement. If you are Jewish then your home is probably in a state of disarray with a cleaning crew hard at work. The smell of Windex, Lysol, Furniture Polish and Soap. The  vacuum cleaner hums incessantly and the carpet cleaners have reset your furniture for the tenth time.

Polish the candlesticks and Kiddush cups, scrub the walls and floor boards, wash the counter tops and sinks, until there is not a stitch of Chametz (leavened bread) in the house. Yes, Passover is coming and the house must be sparkling clean.

Ah, it’s clean; we get the all clear, its time to bring in the holiday foods. Unpack the Matzah, wine,biter herbs and all the other delectable Pesach foods. The aroma makes your mouth water and stimulates memories of years past.

Yes, it feels good to come home on Passover eve knowing that we are at our best.

The Soul Requires Cleansing Too

We have cleaned our homes and removed the dirt thus ensuring that our bodies reside in a palace worthy of a king. But what of our souls? Have we cleaned its home as well? This would be a good time to add a fifth question to the original four.

What have we done to clean the home of our souls? Have we removed all dirt from her home? Have we eradicated all traces of personal Chametz (leavened bread)? Have we searched every nook and cranny of our emotions? Have we inspected our minds and hearts in the unforgiving glare of the candlelight? Have we used the feather of our conscience to dust away the cobwebs of our soul?

After all it’s Passover tonight so let’s get to work!

(The following commentary is based upon the fourteen step ritual of the Passover Seder practiced in Jewish homes throughout the world.)

Kiddush – Benediction

First things first, let’s recite the Kiddush (benediction). Kiddush you say, how is that gonna help? Kiddush means to sanctify the day and to thank G-d for giving it to us. So let’s give our soul a little boost as we contemplate our gratitude to G-d for this holy day. Let us reflect on being the nation chosen for redemption on this night. We raise our glasses and salute an Almighty capable of granting us the power to change, yes, even the power to change ourselves.

Urchatz – Hand Washing

Second, we wash our hands. Remove the dirt and grime accumulated over the year as we unconsciously neglected the work of our soul. fourteen step ritual - innerstreamBut don’t recite the blessing, not yet. You are not sufficiently cleansed, there is more spiritual work yet to be done.

Carpas – Dip Vegetable into Salt Water

Third, we dip our Carpas (vegetable) in salt water to remember our ancestor’s tears. Crying helps to cleanse the soul as the bitter tears wash away the gloom. Reflect on the bitterness that our soul experiences when we sin and set ourselves apart from G-d.

Yachatz – Break the Matzah

Fourth, we break the middle Matzah. We challenge our established models and preconceived notions. We break them in half and grasp the elusive element of humility that comes with startling recognition.

Maggid – Chant the Haggadah

Fifth, we ask the four questions. Ask as many as you need, why not? You have all night? And if you can’t find the answers, look for them in the Haggadah (Passover prayer book). After all, the giants of our history visit us tonight. Challenge the ancient rabbis of B’nei Brak, ask for an insight that will uplift your soul. Turn to Ben Zoma  and seek proof of our ultimate salvation. Work the Haggadah, probe its secrets, the light of dawn has yet to awaken you.

Rachtzah – Wash Your Hands

Finished? Satisfied? Perfect. We are ready for step, number six. Go and wash your hands once more. You have been probing your depths, you have plowed the fertile soil of your heart and this can be a nasty business. New dirt has been uncovered, new grime to dispose of. Get up and wash your hands again. Only this time you are prepared to recite the Blessing. You are sufficiently cleansed so that you may invoke the name of G-d in your quest for further connection.

Motzie Matzah – Eat Matzah

Now you may eat the Matzah. Absorb the bread of affliction. Internalize it, digest it; let it become a part of your body. Feel the humility spread through your soul. Feel the peace that comes with surrendering control. Suspend your fears, you are now ready to reach full and complete serenity.

Maror –Bitter Herbs

Whoops, not yet! There is still a hurdle to overcome. Remember not to embrace the serenity completely for you still reside in a physical world and G-d wants you right where you are. Don’t become overly comfortable with the spiritual, don’t surrender to its allure even if it is enticing to do so. To help you remember, it is time for step, number eight – Maror – the bitter herbs.

Korach – A Sandwich

Yes it is bitter to belong to this material world, yet this is G-d’s wish. To remain here and learn to reconcile the compelling yet contrasting natures of the spiritual and the material. Pause to feel your soul as it is drawn to the sacred purity of the Matzah, at the same time make sure that your ears are well attuned to the incessant call of the Marror, though it is bitter, coarse, vane and material.

Can you find a synthesis? Of course you can. It won’t be bitter but it won’t be sweet. It’s called Korach and its bittersweet, a taste of both worlds at once. After all they were both created by G-d and the essence of all things is one. That is step, number nine.

Shulchan Orech – The Festive Meal

If you have achieved this sublime state, if you have conquered the paradox and learned to live with it, then you deserve to enjoy your holiday feast – Step number ten. The Talmud tells us that joy comes with eating meat and drinking wine. Enjoy, it’s Passover tonight!

Tzafun – Eat The Afikoman

Eat your meal but don’t forget the objective, the purpose of the entire exercise. Don’t allow your enthusiasm for the synthesis to cloud your vision of the goal, the goal of combating the darkness of the material and filling it with the light of G-d. You have the power to fight this war, you have the weapons to achieve victory but you have to reach out and claim them. Finish your meal with the Afikoman (hidden Matzah)-step number eleven. Reach for the humility hidden within and you will be up to the task. Oh, but wait, the Afikoman was stolen, it has been hidden away, it has been denied you, what now? Relax, this is just a test. Go out and reclaim it; reclaim your spark of holiness, G-dliness and humility.  It may be hard to find it for it is well hidden. It may even cost you a pretty penny to make it yours. But no price is too steep for this reward. Pay the asking price, don’t negotiate, take it and run because it’s worth its weight in gold!

Barech – Blessing After Meal

Found it? Reclaimed it? Ate it? Great! At this point you’re ready to thank G-d and call it a night. Time to recite the grace after meals.

Halel – Sing G-d’s Praises

It wouldn’t be nice to fill your stomach and run. You did pretty well for yourself tonight. You came away feeling higher and better than you have been in a long time. Thank G-d for that! Time to execute step number twelve, recite the Halel prayers.

Nirtzah – G-d has Accepted our Effort

We look back and reflect on a wonderful night. Thank you dear G-d, it was a wonderful success. I’m feeling Jewish again, I’m feeling whole again. This must be what it felt like when my ancestors worshiped in the holy Temple in Jerusalem. I can’t wait for next year when I will be there too.

Time to declare victory with the traditional chant “Lshanah Habaah Beyerushalayim” Next Year in Jerusalem – The battle is over, we have already won!

Happy Passover

 

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