As Pesach arrives this evening, I’ve experienced a feeling over the last two weeks of more and more of what I usually think essential being systematically stripped away. With the beginning of the month of Nissan we shed our twice-daily recitation of the Tachanun prayer (immediately after the morning and afternoon Amida). Perhaps the phrase that resonates most for me in Tachanun is, “And David said to Gad, I am in great distress. Let us fall into the hand of God; I will not fall into the hand of man”. How can I possibly get through the day without the reminder that God’s hand is always open, always there to support me (and that Man’s, including my own, hand is always inadequate)?
Leaving Tachanun behind also brings us to refrain from the short prayers just before the daily Psalm. We are not allowed to join David Ha-Melech when he calls for God to turn his ear and answer us.
Arriving at the morning before the holiday begins, I realize this is the final day, for more than a week, that I’ll wear Tefillin. These mysterious black leather boxes with which I bind verses of the Torah to my head and heart, to my mind and my body, will lie, unused throughout the festival. Even being reassured that the holiday itself is an אות, Ot, a sign of my intimate connection to The Creator, I fear feeling naked, unprotected, unfortified.
Along with Tefillin, I leave behind the connection to the תודה, Todah, Thanksgiving Offering. In the daily Mishna recital of the sacrifices I omit to request that my mentioning this offering count as if I actually brought it, and later in the service I leave behind the Psalm, מזמור לתודה, Mizmor L’Todah, that accompanied that offering. It seems inconceivable to go through the day without declaring my gratitude to The Almighty.
Then, for the duration, I also skip the למנצח מזמור לדוד, a Psalm that describes the Redemption, “some by chariots, some on horses”.
Yes, starting tonight I’ll add Hallel, a set of Psalms offering extra praise which we sing together on special days. I’ll also add the Musaf, additional, prayer for the week. I’ll remember to include יעלה ויבא, Ya’al’e V’Ya’vo, in my daily prayers and also after eating. These are all, indeed, special, but somehow they don’t feel like they make up for what I’m leaving out.
Our redemption from Egypt is described as God lifting us out בכנפי נשרים, B’Kanfei Nesahrim, on the wings of eagles. It strikes me that celebrating our escape from slavery, our transformation into a nation, requires a tremendous amount of trust, בטחון, Bitachon. Transferring our allegiance from the material, symbolized by Pharaoh, to the Infinite, perhaps we need to insure that we’re also transferring our allegiance from the physical, represented by our own egos. We need to let go of some of our daily practice and understand that our efforts, no matter how great or how small, diminish to irrelevance when compared to The Infinite. It’s not that God, symbolized as the eagle’s wings, is weak, but rather than our baggage is excess.
I look forward to joining with all of you on our Pesach journey.
Chag Sameach v’Kasher