A friend of mine is dreading Passover. I asked why. She explained to me that she just feels hungry all week long. That everything that she wants to eat is forbidden. But then again, she reconsidered, maybe it isn’t. I asked if perhaps it was really a matter of deprivation. She demurred that it might be.
And here I am, the Rabbi, completely focused on the joy, the fun, the family atmosphere, and yes, fully aware that Passover also includes a bit of moaning and groaning from people I love the most when day 4, 5 and 6 roll around. Those days are what I call the Passover doldrums.
I think it was middle school when I learned about “The Doldrums,” which according to the Miriam Webster Dictionary, is “a part of the ocean near the equator abounding in calms, squalls, and light shifting winds.” And this came to be known to sailors in pre-modern times (read, before the invention of self-propelling motors) as the “Dreaded Doldrums,” where a lack of wind and ocean movement often led to little things, you know, like scurvy and cannibalism. The good news is that today we do have self-propelling motors as well as Vitamin C! The bad news is that we still suffer from the Doldrums and don’t need a journey half way around the world to discover them!
My friend’s predicament is the essence of the existential journey that Passover is meant to inspire. How often do we find ourselves plagued by angst about the things that are not in our power? That are not under our control? Its amazing if we are to take a moment and write down our top 10 most common “issues.” What we find is that the doldrums we feel in relation to them are defined by so much we do not and cannot control. We cannot fix others. We cannot change the past. We cannot make someone love us.
However, the winds begin to shift and increase in degree and speed when we focus on how we can learn to love people for who they are and forgive them for not being who we wish they were. When we accept and affirm that often, negative actions belie negative intentions. And when we do our own kind of soul check and learn that it is indelibly true that love and pride and affection and joy in and about ourselves is an absolute prerequisite for others to love us.
Passover is not a history lesson. It’s a soul lesson that utilizes “a history” to tell and retell the things that befall each one of us who strives to be a human being. So rid the chametz (leavened stuff we are not supposed to eat during Passover) from your house, freeing yourself of the things that you think make you happy. And instead, with the humblest of foods in hand that can withstand the pressures of time, set sail purposely for the Doldrums and ask yourself to identify the forces that get you stuck in these channels. For only then will we be able to invent our own self-propelling motors and find that in just one moment, one turn, one shift, one kindness, we’ve left the Doldrums long behind.