It takes me a while to get into preparing for Passover. It’s not that I don’t like cleaning. Sometimes I can be a little neurotic about cleanliness and order. I think that on Passover, everyone else gets about as nuts as I am the whole year. So why is it that every year, as Passover approaches, I’m a bit reluctant to get caught up in it? Maybe because Passover is only half a redemption.

I’m not being a heretic. Moses himself felt the same way. When G‑d spoke to Moses at the burning bush and told him that he was to go and redeem the Jewish people, Moses didn’t want to go. The Torah commentator Rashi says that they argued about it for a full week! 1

If he could not complete the job, why be the one to start it?G‑d told Moses that He would be with him and take care of all of the details, but it would seem that Moses was worried about something else. He responded, “Please, my L‑rd, send them through whomever you will send.”

Moses saw that he wouldn’t be the one to bring the Jews into the promised land. Not only that, but Moses saw that this would not be the final redemption. Why take them out of this exile just to send them into another? If he could not complete the job, why be the one to start it? Send the guy who can do the whole thing!

Passover is a celebration of what could be considered a moot point. What good does it do me to get out of one prison, if I’m in a worse one now? Yes, at the time it was a wonderful thing, but what relevance does it have to me now?

Consider this: in the Holocaust memorial museum in Israel, Yad Vashem, there is a Passover haggadah that was written on scraps of paper that concentration camp inmates had collected. A group of people sat together and tried to piece it together from memory. They succeeded in writing a complete haggadah. Imagine the Seder that they had that year. Four cups of wine? Three matzahs? Beautiful sparkling silver, china and crystal? Clearly not. Probably most of them would have died if they even attempted to refrain from eating the meager bread that they received for that week. Yet they went to great lengths to celebrate the Seder to the best of their ability. Why? What did they have to celebrate? Their freedom? Hardly. Then what?

The haggadah itself addresses this. The narrative portion of the haggadah opens with the statement, “This is the bread of affliction which our ancestors ate in the land of Egypt . . . This year we are slaves; next year we will be free.”

What did they have to celebrate? Their freedom? Hardly.How’s that for an opening line at the celebration of the festival of freedom? Jewish, eh? From there we go on to speak of our lowly, idol-worshipping roots as a nation. G‑d promised us great things, but first we would have to pay the price of being foreigners and slaves in Egypt. G‑d Himself promised Abraham exile at the same time that He promised he would become a “great nation.” Couldn’t He have come up with an easier, nicer way? We are told the details of how hard it really was in Egypt, until finally we cried out to G‑d and He redeemed us. The details of the plagues and miracles follow, and we end with praise to our Creator, our Redeemer.

One of these songs of praise is rather strange—“Dayeinu”:

“If G‑d had led us through the sea on dry land, and not drowned our tormentors, it would have been enough . . . If G‑d had brought us to Mt. Sinai and not given us the Torah, it would have been enough. If He had given us the Torah and not brought us into the Land of Israel, it would have been enough.”

Really? Unusual for a people known to kvetch! What would have happened if we had gotten through the sea and the Egyptians had not been drowned? According to the Midrash,2 we came out of the sea on the same side where we had entered. Indeed, what would have happened if we had come out, only to find ourselves standing face to face with our enemies? Or if we had not received the Torah? We are told that had we not received the Torah, the whole world would have returned to tohu vavohu—void and nothingness.3 Would that really have been enough? If we had received the Torah, which is full of the commandments that can be fulfilled only in the Land of Israel, yet had never gotten there, how can we possibly say that it would have been enough?

I like things that are complete, full, finished, accomplished. It is very hard for me to find satisfaction in a job not quite done. Process has always been an issue. As soon as I find out I’m pregnant, I want the baby already. Of course, as soon as it’s born, I want to see it grown up. Though I haven’t gotten to that stage yet, I am sure that once the child grows up I will worry about whom he or she will marry, and a few months after the wedding I will wonder when children will come. Life is about process, and Passover is a celebration of process. Hence my issue with Passover.

I’m not writing this just to kvetch, or to procrastinate cleaning my kitchen cabinets. I guess I’m trying to process my issue with process.

Life is about cycles, growth, and change. As much as we constantly try, who can claim to have gotten “there,” wherever “there” is? Even when we reach the end of the lifecycle, we are in a process. When a soul reaches the next world, it wishes to continue to ascend, either on its own merits or on the merits of students and children left behind. 4

Even after Moshiach comes, even in the next world, we will continue to grow and progress in ways that we can’t even imagine in our current state.

Every stage of the game is important, not because it is getting us to completion in the usual sense, but because each step is an opportunity to find completion by connecting to our Creator in that moment.

Passover is a big celebration. We could say that upon leaving Egypt, a nation was born. Without being born, one can’t grow up; but is the whole goal of birth to grow up? Birth itself, even the birth of a life that will be as filled with pain and struggle as that of the Jewish people, is something to celebrate. It is a huge accomplishment! It is a moment of joy, of coming from constriction to expansiveness. It is an awesome opportunity to connect to G‑d. As long as we see birth only as a means to get to some other goal, we can go through life always wanting to be somewhere else, never feeling gratitude and connection in the present.

Each moment is a success if it is used to build on our past successes in order to reach higher, so that we can connect spiritually in a higher and greater way than we ever have before.

Reb Nosson of Breslov understood this idea well when he explained one of the reasons we say a blessing on two loaves of challah on Shabbat. We have something whole. In order to eat it, we must make it no longer whole. The fact that we cut the challah in order for it to fulfill its purpose does not mean that it is no longer whole in terms of its purpose in creation. So we cut one challah while leaving the other whole before us, as a reminder that we haven’t lost anything: the wholeness still exists.

Life is about process, and Passover is a celebration of processMany people are disappointed to find that when they try to bring themselves closer to G‑d, their lives get harder. In the physical world, when you graduate from one level to the next, you get pomp and circumstance. No one frets too much that it’s harder in college than it was in high school. It’s a challenge, and it means that you have progressed. In the spiritual world, when a person goes up to the next level, there is no graduation ceremony—not even a pat on the back. So, how do you know that you’ve reached the next level? It’s harder! When this happens, we often think that we have failed in some way. But when you fail a grade, you repeat it. When you succeed spiritually, it is a bit like the game Tetris—the obstacles start flying at you faster and more furiously, but it’s a good sign. Just take it as a spiritual pat on the back.

It seems that we had something whole, and now it’s broken; but the lesson is that really now it’s just different. What needed to be done was done, and you have moved on.

If G‑d had brought us to Mt. Sinai and not given us the Torah, we would still have been amazing. We stood before the mountain as one person with one heart. What an amazing experience. Three million people were completely united in their desire to come close to each other and to G‑d! The experience was precious! Same thing with the splitting of the sea. When we walked through the water on dry land, it was clear to each and every one of us on a personal level that our Creator was with us, that He could do anything, and that He wanted to use His power to invest in our relationship. That in and of itself is really something, no matter what comes next.

So this is why we spend so much time talking on the Seder night. It’s possible to look at all the miracles and still say, “Very nice, but where does this get me now?”

We need to personalize all that happened. G‑d did miracles for me. I was in trouble. I called out. G‑d answered.

After having experienced redemption from Egypt, no matter what our circumstances may be, we know that we are redeemable and that we have a Redeemer who is unstoppable—when He deems the time right. Nothing is keeping Him from taking us out of all of the dark and narrow places of our lives. Until that happens, we know that all of the exile that we are experiencing is just a springboard for the redemption that is to come.

If we come to that realization on the Seder night, then we can see that there is no difference between the bread of affliction and the bread of freedom. They are one and the same. It’s all part of the process.

So I guess I’ll go start on my kitchen cabinets now. After all, that too is part of the process.