It’s April. I almost forgot even though last night on Jimmy Kimmel they were doing April Fool’s pranks. I guess it didn’t stick because it was my second choice, having changed the channel from Colbert when he put his face behind the grill and began his “midnight confessions”. All these late night talented comedians and commentators are part of my bedtime ritual like the evening “Shema”. Some of the time I put the TV on a 30 minute automatic shut off mode; on good nights, I just trust I can fall asleep without their white noise.
I remembered it was April this morning when into my inbox Knopf flew the first in a month long poem of the day for National Poetry Month. I love the anticipation of these emails, knowing full well that they are a challenge and an opportunity to see the world differently, to feel the world obliquely, to be present uniquely inside the heart, mind, “kishkes” of the author. Like my late night television personalities, with whom I am not always in sync, I often don’t succeed in understanding the poets and their motivations. But that’s Ok because for me it’s all about reaching, stretching, wrestling.
Passover or part of it almost always falls during poetry month. Passover actually doesn’t fall. A fall is almost always accidental and there is nothing accidental about Passover. Not if you know the holiday and all the preparation it demands depending on your comfort level with leaven. I take my own advice about leading a Seder purposefully seriously. So yesterday I was tinkering with using the website Haggadot.com that gives you the tools to create your own personal Haggadah with clips, resources and templates from traditional to contemporary to humanist to atheist – you name it. This morning I counted up how many copies of the same Haggadah we own to see if the number matched with a how many people we’ve invited to the Seder. (What’s wrong with sharing?)
For me, Passover is an intricate and complex poem. The words, questions, songs, symbols, rituals all point somewhere other that where we are. The story we tell is ever old, ever new. The bitter herbs we dip grow in gardens near and far. The wine we lick off our fingers numbering ten suffers ancient and contemporary deaths. The open door brings a breeze of fear mingled with hope. The questions we ask ultimately lead me to faith. The God we invoke, praise, entreat a God of yearning, freedom, aspiration.
This puzzle we call Passover is much like the mystery we call life. It is a journey from unknowing to knowing and back again. It is free men and women becoming slaves, wresting a journey to a promised land of liberty only to be stuck in a desert of fear. It is trusting we can get out of the narrow places and into the wide starry darkness of eternity. It is believing nothing is accidental.
Passover doesn’t just fall.