Thursday, March 29, 2012

Freedom Doesn’t Mean Everything is Perfect

By Susan Esther Barnes

When I think about Passover starting at the end of next week, I feel a bit broken, like the headset pictured above, which got into an altercation earlier this week with our cat, Thomas. Passover is one of my favorite holidays. I love the food and the celebration of freedom from slavery. I especially love matzo, which I associate with visits to my paternal grandmother when I was a child. I love the rituals of the seder plate and the four cups of wine.

I’ve always thought of Passover like the dandelion pictured below that I saw on a walk I took this afternoon: Delicate and short-lived, yet perfect.

But last year my father died just two days before the start of Passover. From now on, thoughts of Passover for me will always be connected with thoughts about his death. From now on, part of me will always feel a bit broken during this holiday.

It helped me to realize, though, that freedom is not about perfection. Just as the Israelites were afraid to enter the promised land after escaping from Egypt and had to wander in the desert for 40 years, just as the country of Israel represents freedom and self-determination for the Jewish people and yet has struggled for survival ever since, so too we remove 10 drops of wine from our cup at Passover to commemorate the 10 plagues and to acknowledge that our joy is lessened by the pain of others.

Freedom does not mean perfection. It does not mean unbridled joy. It does not mean all our problems are solved. Passover does not mean these things, either. And I’m okay with that.


  1. Beautiful.

    May your memories of your father be a comfort to you, especially at this time of the year. Pesach kasher v'sameach.

  2. Thanks, Shira, I appreciate it.