It always feels like there is too much to do and never enough time to do it. This is especially true the weeks before Passover.

Last year I felt like my “to do” list was over the top. It was the week before the holiday and my boss asked me to take on more hours and more responsibilities at work. I agreed. A woman asked me to come with her to the hospital to be with her after a surgery, and of course, I agreed. My children were off from school. There was still last-minute Passover cleaning to do, let alone shopping and cooking for the Seder—and then I received a catering job to cater a friend’s fourteen-person Seder. Yes, I agreed. How could I not? It was for the exact amount of money that we needed to cover our own Passover expenses.

It always feels like there is too much to do and never enough time to do itI got organized. I enlisted my husband and children into my pre-Passover army, and everything ran according to plan. When I was at work, I worked. When I cleaned, I cleaned. When I went to the hospital, I put everything aside and told myself, “Be with her right now.” I was with her, not in the million other things that I felt like I needed to be doing. I found that keeping focused on each task gave me the ability to actually do it without getting overwhelmed. My days were filled with seder (in Hebrew, seder means order).

The day before Passover arrived. I spent the whole day cooking up a storm in the kitchen. I made everything for my friend’s Seder, and I made everything for our Seder. Everything looked and smelled delicious. My only disappointment was that I had not been able to find brisket to serve at our Seder. It’s a rare treat for us, and I always cook it for Passover. Our friend picked up her food that evening and I collapsed into bed. I was finished. We made it!

The next day my daughter awoke crying with an aching ear. We still had last-minute preparations to do, and I worried about her. The early morning passed, and at around noon I told my husband that I was going to go to the pharmacy to pick up some medicine for her ear, to have just in case. I didn’t expect the outing to take more than twenty minutes. In the meantime I put our big pot of holiday meat on the stovetop to heat up so that my children could have some for lunch. With my sleep deprivation I forgot to mention to my husband that all the food was on the flame. I grabbed a stroller and went off with my daughter to the pharmacy. I did not anticipate the crowds of people, the lines, nor the power outage at the pharmacy. The cashiers weren’t taking credit cards, people were complaining, and I nervously glanced at my watch. I called my husband. “What should I do?”

“Just come home. G‑d willing, she’ll be fine, and we can always borrow from a neighbor if we need to.”

By this time the meat had completely slipped my mind.

I started to walk with my daughter, hoping that she would fall asleep. I walked and I walked.

It was 2:30 by the time I opened my door to a strong smell of burned meat and a kitchen full of smoke. Both my husband and son were sleeping and had not noticed the smell. I ran to the flame to shut off the meat. Everything was completely charred. The meat was burned beyond recognition. You can’t imagine what I felt like. First I wanted to scream at my husband, “How could you not have noticed? Why didn’t you turn off the stove?” I bit my tongue as I reminded myself of my own negligence in not telling him that it was on. If there was anyone to be upset with, it was me. Since yelling wasn’t an option, I cried. I felt myself breaking as tears rolled down my cheeks. I looked up and asked, “Why?”

“G‑d, what do you want from me? Why? I work so hard! Why?”

The lightbulb went on in my head.

If there was anyone to be upset with, it was mePassover is freedom—freedom from anger, freedom from despair, freedom from control. “Each Jew has the obligation to feel as though theywere slaves in Egypt,” as though G‑d heard their cry and with a mighty Hand took them out of bondage. Not just my ancestors, but me. The Passover night ritual is centered around this theme and it follows a seder, a specific order. “Elana,” I told myself, “keep focused. Take one thing at a time, one obstacle at a time. G‑d gives you only what He knows you have the capability to handle.”

I remembered that at least, thank G‑d, I had not been able to find expensive brisket! I had already found one positive thing about the situation. I wiped my tears. I opened my freezer. I had some stew meat. I took it out, and at 3:00 in the afternoon before the Seder night, I started to cook again. I felt like a mighty warrior. I made it.

That night I served stewed meat in red wine to my guests ranging from 18 to 80 years old. Everyone agreed it was the best stew ever eaten at a Passover Seder. I dressed my children up in costumes: my son was Moshe and my daughter was Miriam. My husband carried a sack on his back and we re-enacted Yetziat Mitzrayim, the Exodus from Egypt. We crossed the Red Sea that I had placed on the floor, and gave all our guests props and jewelry. It was the best Seder I ever had. I felt liberated as I thought back to the few hours before, and how I could have so easily been enslaved in despair and anger.

What does G‑d want from me? I’m not always 100% sure, but I do know that He doesn’t want me to get angry and He doesn’t want me to despair. I need to take each thing as it comes, one task at a time, and stay focused. I need to know that with a mighty hand G‑d took me out of the house of slavery. The Nation of Israel was in complete and total despair; they had nearly given up hope. But not entirely—they cried out to G‑d and He lifted them up both physically and spiritually. In each difficult situation I find myself, I need to remember to hold onto Him and not to despair: just as He saved me before, so will He again.