Passover is a stressful time for those who are alienated from family. I offer a way to deal with this.
The Matzah of Healing
This is for those who find family Passover seders difficult, in some cases, even terrifying when surrounded by a family of origin that has created trauma and the limitations on your freedom to thrive and feel belonging.
When you are held hostage by trauma, you are enslaved by its grip on your soul. You are held in the chains of its constant whisper to your deepest part. It runs through your blood with the same audacity as the plagues that we recall at Passover seder. It can break us like we break Matzah.
Matzah is called the bread of affliction and the bread of healing. There is a duality to one of the main components of Passover. It can be dry and give us its own plague of gastrointestinal discomfort that comedians relish, and it can be made into comforting matzah brie that nurtures.
As the bread of affliction, matzah signifies that life did not even afford us the time and capacity to nourish ourselves and be nourished by others. We had to eat quickly and just enough to sustain our bodies so that we could keep running. Isn’t that what trauma does? It gives us the ability to operate in the world just enough to get by. We are in fight or flight mode. We are down on the ground in freeze. We fawn to feel we are safe. This is the matzah of burden and damage.
The holes made in the matzah ensure the lack of ability to rise. Trauma creates these perforations and keeps us vulnerable. We have been punctured by pain. Those whispers of trauma become the scream that twists our souls and bodies. Our nervous systems become entwined in time. We are nowhere because we are everywhere: the past, the present, the future. We are kept in the narrows of an abyss of isolation and disconnection.
This kind of matzah breaks too easily. The force of pain and abuse shatters our hearts. We cannot contain it. We are no longer whole. We become fragmented. We are broken. But we do not have to stay that way. There is hope.
Passover illuminates the relationship between our very earthbound existence and the divine spiritual presence that is past our human horizon. The acts of the Creator and our parallel act of choosing to trust in what we could not see yet still taking sandal-footed steps behind Moses led us from the overwhelming power that others had over us. Matzah in hand, we left and went toward change. With each step, we became more whole and less broken.
What do you want to change in your life? What do you want to let go of? What do you want to leave behind? What has been limiting you and creating a narrowness in your life? What has eluded you, hidden from you? What newness do you want to invite in?
Matzah which is the Bread of Healing is made of hope, courage, and the power we have for Tikkun-fixing our lives. It supports us in the transformation that our souls experience as we heal our brokenness. We walk through our lives as our ancestors walked through the desert. It is filled with the faith that choosing the deep risk that personal exploration of our darkness and pain will give us is the way toward our freedom.
I have held this matzah in my hand as a shield from difficulty and as a manner of moving forward in healed power. No matter what size piece I hold, it always feels much bigger than what I see. It is expansive with the generosity of its invitation to transmute whatever I need to shift so I can become restored.
Within its peaks and valleys of this slightly burnt landscape of my soul, the words Refuah Nefesh-healed soul are inscribed. I feel this healing with each bite. I take in the offering of spiritual presence and bring my faith forward to allow myself to accept it.
The matzah is still pierced. It can still break. But now we can hold it with the wisdom of self so that when we will inevitably be broken by life again; we can now manage it. So perhaps this should also be called the matzah of resilience.