On Monday night, March 28, Rebbetzin Devorah Kigel, well-known Emet Outreach rebbetzin and speaker, shared a beautiful virtual shiur on behalf of Emet Outreach about Pesach.

She began by validating the feeling many women experience before Pesach. “Pesach causes a lot of anxiety, even in most non-anxiety people.” Pesach is supposed to be the best holiday of the year. Much of what we dread has nothing to do with Pesach. “Dust is not chametz. Your husband and children are not the korban Pesach.”

She shared how sometimes we start spring cleaning with vacuuming shades and moving furniture and this has no basis in Jewish law. Also, yelling at your husband and kids causes so much stress for your family.

She urged everyone to check with her rabbi about what they are actually required to do. “You want to go into this chag as happy as possible.”

She added that we want to be careful not to complain about things we davened for on Rosh HaShanah. We prayed for our storehouses to be full and for COVID to go away. So, we want to be aware of the blessings in our lives. We prayed for health and for money to be able to buy groceries.

She shared that you should validate yourself that this is a hard holiday. Then, look at the positive and all the things we have to be grateful for.

She also cautioned not to compare yourself with others. Do not ask where someone else is up to in her cleaning. Comparisons cause anxiety. Remember that everyone makes it to the finish line.

Rebbetzin Kigel taught that Jewish time is not linear. We are actually living through the period before leaving Egypt right now. We are supposed to feel like we are leaving Egypt on Pesach. We can access this concept of freedom from slavery now more than any other time of the year. She suggested writing a list of things we feel enslaved to and then writing down how we can break free from those things.

Pesach happens in the spring for a reason. We know that what happens in the physical world teaches us about the spiritual world. Outside we see a few buds. We know that under the earth and in tree branches life is renewing itself. “When things look dark and hopeless, new life is right under the surface. Right after things look the bleakest, then the y’shuah comes.” Spring is teaching us that right after the depths of winter, spring explodes into bloom. Spring is about renewal and restarting. Pesach teaches us that we can start off brand new. Jews had a slave mentality when they were in Egypt and they were on the 49th level of impurity, yet not long after they left, they received the Torah and went up to the level of prophecy.

There is something embedded in this time in the calendar that we can tap into and renew ourselves and reach new levels.

She noted how Rosh HaShanah and Pesach are at two ends of the year, each giving us a shot of spirituality to pull us through to the other one. “We don’t have to be stuck where we are. We want to reinvent ourselves and choose different choices. The Hebrew word for Egypt means narrow. Pesach is about expansiveness, leaving narrow constraints and the endless opportunity to recreate yourself. There are so many opportunities for renewal and growth in Judaism. Some examples include Rosh Chodesh, Pesach, mikvah, and Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur. Really, we can do t’shuvah every day and change. We ask for forgiveness every day in the Sh’moneh Esrei. “We are capable of so much more change than we think we are.”

She then explored the definition of freedom. The secular view is freedom means that I can do whatever I want whenever I want. The Jewish perspective is that type of freedom is actually slavery to your body and your body’s desires. Lev Eliyahu defined freedom as the ability to refrain from what I and my body want to do. Otherwise, I am a slave to my body. Freedom means doing what is not natural.

We have a spiritual side that is impossible to destroy. There is constant tension between the body and the soul. Our goal after 120 is that the soul will have trained the body to become more spiritual. The only way to do this is to give the body treats. The body is a perpetual five-year-old, so you have to give the body treats and compliment yourself for doing the right thing. Examples of treats include massage, manicure, chocolate, going to the beach, and shopping.

We want to take smalls steps. Failure is part of success. “Inherent in growth is falling.” Greatness doesn’t come without falling. She taught that failures teach us the most. It’s important to take small steps in order to be successful. You need to remind yourself how much greatness you have and that you can change. Also, life is not all or nothing. We don’t give ourselves enough credit for what we accomplished. We have to balance self-acceptance with growth. We’re balancing on a seesaw and we want to always try to be in the middle.

We are meant to serve Hashem with joy. If we find ourselves feeling resentful or angry, then we need to take a half step backwards. This will enable us to eventually move forward.

Rebbetzin Kigel then spoke about chametz and matzah. Chametz represents airy expansiveness. It’s puffy, while matzah has no fluffiness and is flat with only flour and water. We eat matzah in order to internalize the quality of matzah. First, it is not needy. Our goal is to be less dependent on externals. Second, it’s humble. Challah says, in essence, I am awesome. It takes over the whole kitchen. One of the most prized traits in Judaism is knowing that I am awesome and it’s all from Hashem. That is true humility.

She noted how arrogance often overlays low self-esteem. We need to work on wanting what Hashem wants.

We thank Rebbetzin Kigel for this beautiful shiur.

 By Susie Garber