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Posted By Opening the Heart

   For me, Passover is all about family and friends, usually about 20-25 of them, seated around our table which is laid out with my grandparents silverware, dishes, wine glasses, Ruthi's famous brisket, Aunt Lois' Passover bagels, many different spring vegetables, my own homemade chicken soup and ten different desserts including a flourless chocolate birthday cake for our daughter, Abby. Everything that we eat or drink and eat and drink from is brought up from the basement and cupboards for this special time of rebirth and rededication in early spring.

   I lead the seder and try to make it a fun and soulful time. We're told that the most important part of the seder is the retelling of the story of the Jews' going out from slavery in Egypt, to freedom. And we are asked, in the re-telling to make it a "personal journey"- as if you, today, were going from slavery to freedom.

   Each year I would struggle with this sacred obligation to "make it personal". How really do you do that? How do you "imagine" if you've never really been a slave, beaten, held down, oppressed? Part of the tradition in our home was that each year I would put a question under each plate, inviting people to share "How it would feel to be free of a dominant obsession?" Or what might we give away and never really miss? While we sometimes had interesting discussions, I never felt that I really helped anyone experience the going out in a deep, personal way.

   This year, instead of putting different questions under each dinnerplate, I put the same question under each plate:

             "We ask you to remember a time in your life when you felt truly at peace,

              surrounded by love, calm, clear-headed, in the present moment. It may have

              been a time shared with others, or a time in a beautiful natural setting or

              just a time of great happiness and joy.... Really take a moment, close your

              eyes and remember that time..... Now please share "What is it that allows

              us to 'be' that place even when there may be distracting thoughts or cir-

              cumstances in our lives?'"

   Analee, a dear friend, said that her peaceful moment was a row at sunset with egrets and osprey soaring. Her eyes filled up as she told us that this occurred just a few months after her father died. She explained that what allowed her to be "in that" peaceful place was her intention that, before the row, she would create a place of serenity by clearing out the scull of all negative thoughts,

   When she shared this, I got what it meant to make the "going out" from Egypt a personal journey: going from slavery to freedom is coming to the present moment with intention- consciously ending the 'R and R' (review and regret) about the past, or stopping the anxiety about the future. Analee created a peaceful row at sunset with her intention to be in touch with the moment. Thank you, Dear Friend, for teaching me the meaning of freedom.

   With Love and Respect, Jon




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