The Bliss Blog

The Bliss Blog

Changing the Dishes

 

Fellow Good Men Project author Thomas Fiffer shared his insights about the holiday of Passover. I saw his blog entry this morning as I was contemplating what to write for today’s Bliss Blog. Having been raised in a Jewish home, Passover was eagerly anticipated all year long. The pre-holiday tradition of changing the dishes was the equivalent of Spring cleaning, according to my mother. We would haul the boxes down from the attic; my father standing on the ladder that extended down from the hatch, as he handed them to us. Carrying them into the kitchen, peeling off their newspaper wrapping, piling them in the sink to wash them and then drying and placing them carefully in the empty cabinets that had been cleaned of ‘chametz’ ( foods that contain leavening) and replaced with Kosher for Passover items. Cooking commenced a few days prior to the first seder. All these years later, I can breathe in  and re-create the delectable aromas. My mother and Uncle Jim would playfully banter about whether the matzah balls in the soup should be light and fluffy (my mom’s preference) or heavy, stick to your ribs (his ideal). She would lovingly change the consistency for a few of them for her big brother. I loved setting the table with the ‘good china’ which I have now as part of my inheritance since my parents have passed. Delicate floral plates, cups and bowls embellished the long table around which family and friends gathered. Some were part of  ‘the tribe’, while others were family of choice of other faith traditions and eagerly listened to the story of the Exodus and enjoy the kitchen creations.

One of the highlights of the service are what are referred to as The Four Questions. They are asked by the youngest child present.

Why is it that on all other nights during the year we eat either bread or matzah, but on this night we eat matzah?

Why is it that on all other nights we eat all kinds of vegetables, but on this night we eat bitter herbs?

Why is it on all other nights we do not dip even once, but on this night we dip twice?

Why is it that on all other nights we eat either sitting or reclining, but on this night we eat in a reclining position?

Following are Thomas’ corollary queries:

“Today, I would like to propose four alternate questions, for Jews and non-Jews alike to ask on the holiday.

Why is it that people around the world still live under oppressive regimes that limit their intellectual, religious, and economic freedoms?

Why is it that people in our own wealthy nation go hungry, with no bread, or matzah, or vegetables, or bitter herbs to eat?

Why is it that so many people still fight against our right to choose whom to love and whom to marry?

What can each of us do, in our own ways, to fight the scourge of oppression, the slavery of poverty, the limits imposed by prejudice and intolerance, and to empower more people to be free?”

As I sit with these questions, I have no answers, except to say that if we choose to carry the message of Passover into the world; that of freedom, redemption from slavery (some self imposed), miracles, trust in the God of our understanding, taking a stand in the face of oppression, feeding everyone, knowing that there is enough, inviting the world to our table, enjoying each other’s company, then they will become no brainers.

As I stand with Thomas and all those who choose to take on these questions as ‘marching orders’ with which we cross the desert and  Red Sea, I know that we are not alone in embodying them even after we re-wrap the dishes and lift them back up into the attic where they will await their appearance at the seder table next year.

There is a song that is sung on Passover called Dayenu which translates to ‘it would have been enough’ and is a prayer of gratitude. This is a spoof using that title:  http://youtu.be/E_RmVJLfRoM that focuses on the hope and promise of freedom.

http://tomaplomb.blogspot.com Thank you, Tom for your insights.

Photo credit:  www.everystockphoto.com AlphaTangoBravo/Adam Baker

 

 

 

 

Self Imposed Slavery

Tonight marks the first night of Passover which commemorates the journey from slavery to freedom of the Jews in Egypt who were compelled to work at the peril of their own lives.  Jews around the world (and others who are invited guests as they were in my childhood home) will gather to celebrate and engage in a ritual dinner called a seder (which translates to ‘order’ in Hebrew.) For those not familiar (if you watched the Hollywood blockbuster The Ten Commandments, you will have some idea) with the history of the holiday, it originated as a result of the Pharoah being afraid that the Jews of the time would become so numerous that they would overthrow his rule. He issued an edict that the first born males of the Jewish families were to be murdered. Moses; the hero of the Passover story was placed in a basket and sent down the river Nile to protect him from this fate, by his mother and sister and was subsequently found by the daughter of the Pharoah and raised as her own son. These, I consider the ‘sheros’ of the tale.

As a child, I sat at the table while my father (who conducted what I came to call ‘speed seder’, since most traditional Passover meals which include the service can last for hours and we completed the formal part in less than 30 minutes) began reading from the Haggadah. Ours were the dog-eared over the years Maxwell House version which I can still see in my mind’s eye. One by one, we took turns reading our own portions of the ceremony. The food, the wine (grape juice for those who didn’t otherwise indulge), the songs, time with family and friends,  the message of miracles and redemption all combined to make it a memorable experience

The Ten Plagues are an integral part of the seder and some question whether they occurred as is portrayed in the book of Exodus or if they were symbolic.

1. Blood – The waters of Egypt are turned to blood. All the fish die and water becomes unusable.
2. Frogs – Hordes of frogs swarm the land of Egypt.
3. Gnats or Lice – Masses of gnats or lice invade Egyptian homes and plague the Egyptian people.
4. Wild Animals – Wild animals invade Egyptian homes and lands, causing destruction and wrecking havoc.
5. Pestilence – Egyptian livestock is struck down with disease.
6. Boils – The Egyptian people are plagued by painful boils that cover their bodies.
7. Hail – Severe weather destroys Egyptian crops and beats down upon them.
8. Locusts – Locusts swarm Egypt and eat any remaining crops and food.
9. Darkness – Darkness covers the land of Egypt for three days.

10. Death of the Firstborn – The firstborn of every Egyptian family is killed. Even the firstborn of Egyptian animals die.

I love the idea of symbolism and detect it in my own life on a daily basis. Lately, I have noticed that I have become a near merciless task master when it comes to my own expectations for my productivity and standards. There was a time in my life when I was nowhere near as fastidious as I am now and in some ways, feel as if I am overcompensating for those choices I made out of fear, not being sure how to move past it. I carry an invisible whip (some of my friends can see it) with which I flagellate myself as a means of spurring myself on to greater feats. One friend told me lovingly yesterday that since we are all connected, all One, when I beat myself, it is like I am beating her. That made it easier to cast down the weapon I have used to my own detriment, since I would never do to another what I have done to myself.

I also see Passover as a journey from darkness to light, from fear to safety, from doubt to ultimate trust that I will cross the Red Sea safely and be fed manna from Heaven. I am my own Moses as I free myself.

http://youtu.be/JCy4-_DaacI   The Best Seder in the USA

Photo Credit:  www.everystockphoto.com Robert Couse-Baker

That’s What Makes You Strong

 

Jesse Winchester Smile JazzFest 2011.jpg

Another soul passed into the Light yesterday to join the celestial choir. I first heard Jesse Winchester’s music in the 80′s. As a consummate singer songwriter, he had  a gift for vivid imagery that took the listener along for the ride.

Songs such as Mississippi, You’re On My Mind, The Brand New Tennessee Waltz , Yankee Lady and Rhumba Man will forever be part of his lyrical legacy. Cosmically coincidentally, I was listening to WXPN, which is a member supported NPR station in Philly while writing this and the song Yankee Lady came on.

His work was covered by the likes of other musical masters, including Jimmy Buffett, Joan Baez, Emmylou Harris, Elvis Costello, Raffi, The Everly Brothers and Wynona Judd whose version of the song That’s What Makes You Strong,  still brings tears to my eyes.

That’s What Makes You Strong-Jesse Winchester

If you love somebody

Then that means you need somebody

And if you need somebody

That’s what makes you weak

But if you know you’re weak…

And you love someone

Oh it’s a funny thing

That’s what makes you strong

That’s what makes you strong

That’s what gives you power

That’s what lets the meek come sit beside the king

That’s what makes us smile

In our final hour

That’s what moves our souls

And that’s what makes us sing

 

When I consider those words, I think about the polarity we take for granted; that of strength vs. ‘weakness’. What if the other side of strong is ‘vulnerable’? Even that definition carries with it the risk of wounding. But imagine this, when you are willing bare your soul to another, you also make yourself available to love. For a long time, I have held on to the belief that it wasn’t ok to need anyone, since I translated need to neediness and boy, did that feel sucky! It wasn’t until I recognized that being human carries with it the opportunity to ride a see-saw. If you are the only one on it, you can’t make it go anywhere. When you are on it with someone else, sometimes your feet are on the ground and sometimes up in the air. You need to trust that the other person will move it up and down with ease and grace and not leave you hanging or crash land you on the ground and they are called on to do the same with you.  That way, you can both enjoy the ride.

Hoping that Jesse smiled in his final hour~

 

 

Photo credit:  flickr/robbiesaurus

Hot Air Balloon

Recently I was speaking with someone about the things that weigh us down, like a hot air balloon tethered to the ground with heavy rope, spiked into the dirt, sandbags reinforcing them.  Self deprecation, limiting beliefs, old worn out ideas that no longer serve, all of the shoulda /woulda/ coulda yammering vying for our attention.

hotairballoons

There have been times in my life when all of those things showed up and it would have taken a machete to have hacked through the thick as steel twine. One of my areas of self limitation is that of giving and receiving. I have long been on the giving end of the spectrum with moderate discomfort when it comes to receptivity.  Tonight on my radio show called It’s All About Relationships, I interviewed Amanda Owen who is the author of Born To Receive. She could have written this book with me in mind since it is my growing edge. I talk a good game about it and in theory, I am able to do so. In actuality, I often deflect what I say I want. It is subtle and insidious and I am not always aware that it is taking place.

It really hit home that as someone who is more in giver than receiver mode, I often feel depleted. and ‘gived out’.   She spoke of the concept of activity= energy out/receptivity = energy in. I find myself (and lose myself in the process) doing rather than being, buzzy busy. She offers the ABCs of receiving  A=Accept All Compliments  B = Be Spiritually Naked  C= Count Your Blessings ~ Accepting compliments sometimes is challenging. I can acknowledge my gifts and talents and with the intention to be humble, I often find a way to spread the love around. An example took place at work yesterday when a co-worker complimented me on skillfully working with a client. I responded that we are all good at what we do there. He repeated “You do good work.” When he said it with insistence, I took it in, rather than pushing it away. The spiritually naked part comes more easily, since I have been peeling off the layers to reveal the real. Gratitude is my watchword and something I practice throughout the day.

I know on a conscious/cognitive level that there can be no giver if there is no receiver there to balance it out on the other end. I have experienced the joy that comes from giving and want to allow others to feel that pleasure too….and yet…and yet….

Wondering once and for all, what it would take to truly be in receptivity mode so that I can allow myself to rise above my limits and like that hot air balloon, take my spirit aloft.

http://youtu.be/6VqRlO3wa1A You Raise Me Up by Josh Groban

Photo Credit:  Everystock/imagefactory

Previous Posts

Changing the Dishes
  Fellow Good Men Project author Thomas Fiffer shared his insights about the holiday of Passover. I saw his blog entry this morning as I was contemplating what to write for today's Bliss Blog. Having been raised in a Jewish home, Passover was eagerly anticipated all year long. The pre-holi

posted 9:22:24am Apr. 15, 2014 | read full post »

Self Imposed Slavery
Tonight marks the first night of Passover which commemorates the journey from slavery to freedom of the Jews in Egypt who were compelled to work at the peril of their own lives.  Jews around the world (and others who are invited guests as they were in my childhood home) will gather to celebrate a

posted 10:40:54am Apr. 14, 2014 | read full post »

That's What Makes You Strong
  Another soul passed into the Light yesterday to join the celestial choir. I first heard Jesse Winchester's music in the 80's. As a consummate singer songwriter, he had  a gift for vivid imagery that took the listener along for the ride. Songs such as Mississippi, You're On My Mind,

posted 10:43:14am Apr. 12, 2014 | read full post »

Hot Air Balloon
Recently I was speaking with someone about the things that weigh us down, like a hot air balloon tethered to the ground with heavy rope, spiked into the dirt, sandbags reinforcing them.  Self deprecation, limiting beliefs, old worn out ideas that no longer serve, all of the shoulda /woulda/ coulda

posted 9:06:23am Apr. 11, 2014 | read full post »

Open Tabs
  Chances are you have seen the commercial from back in the 80's  called This is your brain on drugs. In case you weren't yet born, check it out and in case you were old enough to remember it, here it is for your re-viewing pleasure.  Although I am drug and alcohol free (by choice and not

posted 10:36:43pm Apr. 09, 2014 | read full post »


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