When I began learning about Jewish observance, I was taught that Passover
holds the spiritual energy of liberation. Each year, the Passover holiday
promises redemption from the chains of enslavement that every individual
personally experiences. I simplistically thought: if I want it badly enough, if
I close my eyes tightly and pray on Seder night, perhaps all the problems that I
feel sad about will be resolved. My own “Egyptian” torment will be terminated.
All the good things I wish for myself and my family members will come to be.
Somehow it never happened that way. Passovers came and went and I was no
closer to serenity and fulfillment. I remember the disappointment I felt each
year, when conducting the Seder was a struggle, when family togetherness was so
loaded, when the only one experiencing any redemption was the child who was
lucky enough to be excused from the table.
Today I am beginning to get it. I am now aware that my own thoughts and
behaviors have blocked me from achieving spiritual redemption. I understand that
taking the Fourth Step Inventory is way more likely to be my ticket to freedom
than any wishful thinking ever could have been.
On the night before Passover, Jewish Law requires that one search his own
home for any trace of hidden leavened products. The procedure is a ritual,
replete with its blessings and accoutrements. Generally, a candle is used to
provide light, a feather to gather the small pieces of bread, a wooden spoon to
scoop them, and a paper bag for temporary disposal, until the contents are
ceremoniously burned the next morning.
Leavened products (chametz) represent arrogance. Yeast puffs things up. Matza
doesn’t rise; it reflects humility. In the Search for Chametz, while we try to
empty our homes of physical leavened products, we also attempt to rid ourselves
spiritually of the characteristics that interfere with humility. The purpose of
the Egyptian Exodus was to become a nation to G‑d at Mount Sinai. In order to be
G‑d’s Chosen, we have to be willing to choose Him. We can no longer continue to
serve ourselves and our own false gods. Accepting the One G‑d requires the
humility and self negation of matza.
Our Fourth Step this month encourages us to conduct a SEARCHing and fearless
moral inventory. We take our own inventory, not someone else’s. We search our
own home for leavened products, not someone else’s. My Jewish search looks like
In the dark places of my own truth, The Twelve Steps of Recovery are my
candle, illuminating the path to self awareness and self actualization. My
sponsor is the feather that gently coaxes my character defects to come out of
their hiding spots. The wooden spoon is the containing power of my G‑d, ready to
accept and hold even those leavened, arrogant aspects of my being. Finally, the
people in my recovery groups are the paper bag, providing a nonjudgmental
receptacle for the vulnerabilities I have exposed and shared.
When I am ready to give my burnt offerings to G‑d, I can be sure He will be
willing to receive them. In turn, I am promised to the priceless gift of
This Passover I don’t expect to sit back and wait for miracles. If I want
redemption I am prepared to work for it. Seeing my character defects is painful.
More often than not I feel like a deer trapped in the headlights when my
character defects are exposed. Our Fourth Step is meant to be fearless. For
today I choose to go with the candle. I take strength and encouragement from my
Jewish heritage, its laws and its rituals.
Time in Judaism is not linear. Each year is considered part of an ever
ascending spiral, taking us spiritually higher than where we had been at that
same point the previous year. Like recovery, Judaism is about the journey. But
we can be sure that we are coming closer to the ultimate destination: personal
and global redemption. Wherever I was holding last Passover, I trust that my
work is taking me to a higher (or deeper) place this year.
When Moses asked G‑d what to answer when he would be asked “who sent you” to
free the Jewish people, G‑d replied: “I am, I was, I always will be.” In my
recovery, I choose to remember that G‑d is ready to accept me, He always was
ready to accept me, and He always will accept me.
I no longer have illusions about the redemptive power of the Passover Seder nights. I know now that G‑d will lift me out of slavery provided I work my program. This year, I am ready and eager to attain another level of freedom in the spiraling cycle of Jewish time that directs my life.