Passover is a wonderful time of year to clean our external and internal spaces. For many of us, we already carve out the time to clean our kitchens in preparation for the holiday. And we already eliminate certain foods. Can we add an intention of “wellness” to that tradition and still remain connected to the religious significance of Passover? As a Reform Jewess, I feel empowered to ask the question.
Passover already prescribes a ritual cleaning of our external space, a week of conscious eating, spiritual contemplation, and connection to family and community. Through my lens, it has all the components of a powerful wellness ritual.
Being conscious about our existing Passover tradition
As we purify our homes for the coming holiday, we take the time to review what we have in the refrigerator, the pantry, and all the corners of the kitchen that do not always get our attention. We clean everything and we purge the chametz. And then, when the holiday arrives, we eliminate chametz from our diets for a week.
In addition to cleaning our external and internal spaces during Passover, we connect with the wisdom and gifts of our ancestors, we come together with family, we take time to reflect and appreciate our freedom from slavery, and we practice gratitude by singing Dayenu.
When you go through the paces of your existing Passover traditions, are you conscious of these things, or have you done it so many times that you are going through the motions on autopilot?
I know there is a lot of hustling around to get ready for the Seder meal. The meal itself is a labor intensive, multi-course event that takes planning and preparation. So with all the planning, orchestrating, and logistics, when you go through the paces of the ritual, do you feel energized and uplifted from the holiday?
What could a Passover wellness ritual include?
The existing components of the Passover celebration are already so powerful. In my perspective, it is a matter of bringing focused attention to each step, asking ourselves more questions, and being very clear about our intentions.
Open the Passover ritual by setting intentions
Since Jewish holidays follow the lunar calendar, one approach we can take is to align our ritual to the phases of the moon. Passover is celebrated on the full moon, so one option is to begin the ritual with the new moon preceding Passover (this year that would be on Thursday March 22nd ).
How to set intentions
- Start by setting aside a prescribed amount of time (ideally 20 minutes of uninterrupted time)
- Grab a glass of water and something to write with then find a place that you can reflect
- Once you settle into your place, take a moment to sit in silence and take in a few deep breaths.
- Then begin reflecting upon and writing your intentions regarding your wellness and how it weaves into the upcoming holiday. The writing is for you, so be honest with yourself and let your ideas flow freely. Use positive language, think about desired outcomes, and define clear time frames.
Cleaning our external spaces
As we go through our refrigerators and pantries purging the chametz and cleaning the nooks and crannies, we can also take the time to tie that cleaning ritual to our intentions. For example, if your intentions are to feel a greater sense of connection with our traditions, then as you clean, you can visualize the generations before us following these same rituals. If your intention is to use this as a spring board to cleaning the rest of your house, then you can feel a deep sense of accomplishment that you’ve started with your cleaning task (you may also be interested in reading Treating our homes as sacred space). And if your intention is to use this as an opportunity to make healthy food choices, then as you purge the chametz, you may also want to consider removing some of the processed foods from your pantry.
The power of setting intentions is that all your activities will further your path to achieving them. Your actions can be more deliberate and the outcomes can be by designed rather than just by default.
Gathering with our community
We typically spend Passover with a community. Whether it is your family, friends, neighbors, or fellow-congregants make a conscious effort to fully appreciate what it means to connect in ceremony and tradition. Part of the recipe for wellness is loving connection, and sharing a ritual meal like a Seder not only connects us to the people in the room, it connects us the people all around the world that are participating in similar rituals. And it connects us to our ancestors. Elevating our awareness of the positive impact that connection has can also elevate the joy and wellness it will bring.
Cleaning our internal spaces (food elimination)
During Passover, we eliminate certain foods from our diet for 8 days, which forces us to make conscious food choices all week. While we are being more conscious about what we eat, we have an opportunity to observe our patterns. Do you stay hydrated throughout the day? Do you make choices for foods that fuel your body well? How often do you get side-tracked with cravings? Does the amount of sleep impact your food choices?
These are all interesting points of information that raise your awareness about some of the daily choices we all make that can have an impact on our wellness.
For me, I have concluded that is it appropriate to add wellness intentions as part of my Passover Celebration and I have found that it enhances my connection to the holiday. When we look out for our well being, we have more strength and energy to be the best us’s we can be; which also means we are able to participate more and contribute more.