Passover, like everything, starts with a bang.
The seder! The matza! The charoset! We set the table lovingly and carefully, bringing out our best china, the beloved Seder plate, and the Cup of Elijah, and, if you’re me, post the photos on Instagram to everyone’s delight.
Then what happens a week in? The matza crumbs are everywhere. The leftover charoset, summarily tossed. The Seder plate, dirty, cleaned, returned to its post. I’m over the matza. Like, really over it. My job now will be to get everything “back to normal,” which means scrubbing the traces that Passover was ever here.
Isn’t it so with life?
A new life, a baby, is a shock of joy. Mazel tov! It’s a brand new life! Oh, isn’t she adorable?? Look at those tiny toes, the perfect little mouth! She kicked! She smiled! She crawled!
Then the new baby gets old, becomes a teen. Her toes are, well, toes. Her mouth, well, she has a big mouth. Her smile is still a miracle. For other reasons.
If I sound cynical and jaded, perhaps I am, just a bit. I’ve seen so many new and exciting things get old and faded fast. But the amazing thing is that I, along with everyone else, still get so excited each time there’s a brand new something. I still love that fresh clean feeling of new shoes, a new outfit, the beginning of a holiday, a new niece or nephew. A new destination, a new friendship, a new idea, a new opportunity.
In the wisdom of the universe, God has created a gift called “forgetfulness.” I know you think this is a curse and not a blessing, as in “I forgot my keys… I forgot her name… what’s that word again?” And it is a double-edged sword.
But imagine if our memories would be so acute that the intensity of every feeling, of every awareness, would never dull. Imagine if we’d never get used to grief, shock, even intense joy. We would be unable to function. The emotions would overpower us. They’d own us, drown us. We could never start over.
Forgetfulness is what allows anyone to try a new job. Start a new relationship. Have a subsequent baby, after the first. Forgetfulness allows us, blurry and fuzzy about the downsides of anything, to get excited about the newness of everything. Forgetfulness allows us to be childlike in our wonder again. It is a gift: the dulling of our intellects to allow for the radiance of our emotions.
As I vacuum matza crumbs, scrub the hardened charoset off the Seder plate, pack away the Passover dishes, sort and file the grape-juice-sticky Haggadahs of my children, move ahead in my mind to “back to normal,” I know, in the wise part of my brain, that next year I’ll get just as excited to buy the fresh boxes of matza, grind the charoset in my Passover food processor, take out the grape-juice-sticky Haggadahs from years gone by, and smile with the joy of something new.
So don’t start with the end in mind. Start with the beginning in mind. Stay fresh. Stay excited. Retain the childlike wonder, embrace the forgetfulness, ride the initial waves of joy. It’s a gift, and it’s new each year, and that’s a beautiful thing.