We are celebrating Passover this month which has always been one of my favorite Festivals. When we all gather for the seder, I am inspired by the drama of the worship experience which reminds us of our ongoing challenges and opportunities as we commemorate our people’s journey from slavery to freedom.
Recently I saw the movie Black Swan and was very moved by the powerful portrayal of the main character. I will not be very specific because I hope that if you haven’t seen this movie, you will take the opportunity to watch it. I am not a movie critic, but I do believe that one of the main themes of the movie is the pressure that some feel to be perfect. Although I believe that striving for perfection or working hard are important, that if we enslave ourselves to the notion that we have to be perfect, we will never be satisfied with our lives.
A number of years ago in a publication called Emet V’Emunah, which was a summary of Conservative Judaism, one of the suggestions which was made in the book is that all of us should be “striving Jews.” I often wonder if one of the reasons that people are not more involved in performing religious rituals is that they are afraid they will not perform them correctly or that they may not be good at them. My view of Judaism is that striving to grow is what is important, that striving to learn more is important, that striving to bring more rituals into our lives is important, that striving to find answers to tough questions is what is important.
Another part of the movie that intrigued me was my perception that it was almost impossible to distinguish between what was real and what was imagined. Our tradition teaches that we should not spend time dealing with imaginary fears because there are enough real things that can create fear or concerns in our lives. What makes life even more difficult sometimes is when we cannot distinguish between that which is imaginary and that which is real. Sometimes we get so caught up in every day life, that we lose perspective and need to step back and look at our reality and strive to fix that which is problematic. In Desiderata which is a reading that hangs in the rabbinic study, one of the lines says, “Do not distress yourself with imaginings, many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.” I hope that we can find people with whom we can share our imagined and real fears and that we can support each other during these scary times in our lives.
As we recall the exodus from Egyptian slavery, may each of us find some way to liberate ourselves from at least something that holds us back from being happy and fulfilled. I hope that we can liberate ourselves from the belief that there is only one reality and that we will think about creative ways to deal with tough issues we face. I hope you will come see me so that we can help each other in our journey though life. And I hope that we will not enslave ourselves to the myth that we need to be perfect. Judaism wants us to grow and to to strive to improve and perfect our world, but NOT to be perfect.
Enjoy a wonderful Passover and please let us know if you need somewhere to go for a seder. No one should be alone during this special time.
Hag Pesach Sameach.
Rabbi Bruce Aft