Avoiding Haste

Ever heard the phrase “if you don’t do something right better not to do it at all”? So trite but true. So easy to do yet often not done by many of us. We live in a world that encourages ADHD behavior, moving rapidly from one activity to the next, scheduling in every hour of one’s day. Parents take their kids from soccer to dance to tutoring, not getting home until 10 at night, then waking up the next morning to another brutal day of the same cycle. I know I get started with one activity but often something comes up and I’m quickly moving to the next.

For many of us, Shabbat and Yom Tov are countercultural days, opportunities for us to slow down and smell the roses. However, Passover at first glance fits into the pattern of haste and frenzy that is common in many of our daily lives. We are told to eat unleavened bread for 7 days because we left Egypt in haste.[1] Furthermore, we are taught that the Paschal lamb was eaten in haste.[2] Why is everything done so quickly? We are familiar with the idea that the Israelites had to leave in haste, lest Pharaoh change his mind and forbid their departure. However, Rabbi Isaac Luria presents a different idea: that our ancestors were so mired in the depravity of Egyptian culture that had they stayed just a little longer, they would have been contaminated beyond redemption. They were on the 49th of 50 levels of impurity, which explains why they would so quickly construct a golden calf and yearn to return to Egypt. Rabbi Abraham Joshua Twerski writes that “even a single extra moment (in Egypt) might have sealed our doom.”[3] Thus the quick exodus from Egypt might have been on account of the Israelites’ actions just as much as it was because of Pharaoh’s fickle mind.

I’m sure there are some who are thinking if Passover is about haste, why are we still eating Matzah eight days later? Clearly G-d did not have our digestive tracks in mind when the holiday was established! All kidding aside, I would argue that the Passover that we observe today is more about slowing down than speeding up. We have had uninterrupted work weeks for months now, especially with the leap year. We have braved the chill of winter and watched the blooms of spring. One of Passover’s names is Hag HaAviv, the springtime holiday, and having come out of the winter we can now experience the rebirth of life (especially true for Karina and me). Passover enables us to take a step back and appreciate what we have, all of our freedoms. Especially now after all the houses have been purged of chametz, extraneous material, we have an opportunity to appreciate what is truly important: our families, our friends and our community.

At this moment of reflection, we also have the opportunity to think of those who are no longer with us and the impact they made and continue to make in our lives. For parents we cherish all that they put into raising us, teaching us values and ethics, molding us into the people we are today. For siblings we remember playing together in the yard, sticking up for one another in the face of bullies, being together for family celebrations and watching each other’s families grow. For a spouse we remember starting a partnership together from the laughing moments of the first dates to walking together under the wedding canopy to starting a family together. For children we remember raising them, their first steps and first words, taking them to school, teaching them to drive. These memories, though bittersweet, are important to hold onto. They not only bind us to our past but also set the foundation for the life that we continue to live each and every day.

As we prepare to say Yizkor, let us remember to slow down, taking moments to recall all those who though are physically no longer with us, they are still very much present in our hearts. May we take time to see their smile, the twinkle in their eyes, feel the caress of their hands, and remember their crowing achievements. In so doing, we continue to honor their examples and ensure that all they have stood for will continue to be an enduring benediction. We always continue to love them, to hold them near and dear to our hearts.

[1] Deuteronomy 16:3

[2] Exodus 12:11 and Mishnah Pesachim 9:5

[3] Abraham Joshua Twerski, Messages from the Mishnah (Brooklyn, NY: Mesorah Publications, LTD, 2013), p. 135.

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