Although Pesach is only eight days long, it feels as if the holiday takes up a greater chunk in our calendars. We experience weeks, if not months, of preparation, cleaning, cooking, planning. We preoccupy ourselves with the latest recipes and projects, oftentimes forgetting the meaning of the holiday. Pesach is about redemption and freedom. As we eat sit around the Seder table we actively remember the trials and tribulations of our nation as they were slaves in Egypt. We imagine the suffering, the fear, and the feelings of helplessness, as well as the hope for the future. Moshe Rabbeinu led our ancestors out of Egypt and it is our duty to recall the salvation that HaShem provided us.
This time of year additionally conjures up memories of my own salvation. Five years ago I left inpatient treatment on Erev Pesach to return home and then spend Pesach with my family. Though one should not consider treatment my personal Egypt, one can argue that my emergence from 24-hour care was akin to Am Yisroel emerging from Mizrayim. I was being tested for the first time, guided by what I had learned during my process in treatment.
This holiday represents reflection and appreciation. Not only was my discharge from treatment on Erev Pesach, but the holiday itself holds great meaning with regard to my eating disorder. When an individual suffers from an eating disorder, s/he is trapped and controlled by the master (Paraoh), or unhealthy voice in her/his head. One is a slave, answering to the whim of the demonic nature of the eating disorder, trapped by the endless thoughts. One day with an eating can feel like a lifetime, one month can feel like an eternity.
I had been stuck in Egypt, laboring at the commands of my Anorexia, experiencing the bruises, the depression, and loneliness. It was almost impossible for me to imagine a place beyond the torture of my mind, the illness that had encompassed me. And yet I had various “leaders” telling me that there was a place beyond my suffering. My family, my friends and boyfriend, my treatment team, and my peers all encouraged me that a place of salvation did in fact exist. But arriving there would prove to be difficult; I would need to push myself; to rearrange my mind and to learn acceptance, among other things. After years of suffering I was able to emerge from my Egypt and experience the light of a new day, of a new me.
As Pesach approaches, I encourage you to take some time to reflect on the true nature of the holiday. We suffered as a nation, tortured for hundreds of years, enslaved in a foreign land. I do not discount the days of preparation, but instead encourage you to keep in mind the reason for all the fuss. Pesach is not simply a time to relax at home and enjoy the onset of Spring. Rather, we must look to our past to appreciate all we have been given.
I believe that each person experiences his own Egypt, his own battle and suffering on some level. Pesach reminds us to be grateful for the lives we have been given, even among the tribulations. We must remember the manner in which Am Yisrael was saved by God, and remember the miracles that transpired. For those currently experiencing their own personal Egypt, there is hope. As someone who climbed the path toward freedom and I can attest to the joyful life at the other side.
Our nation was saved and liberated, and this is what we must work to remember during the eight days of Pesach. Not simply the plans and preparation but the appreciation for how far we have come, how far HaShem has taken us. As I reflect in my personal liberation as well as the liberation of our nation I encourage you to join me and recall all that you have to be appreciative of this holiday.
By Temimah Zucker