After launching our seder on the first evening of Passover by asking each of the members at our table to reflect on the “bittersweet” in their own hearts, minds, bones, and souls, Lielle and I went outside to turn the present downpour into an opportunity for growth. For during Passover we embrace the bittersweet of life through the ever-present duality of fresh parsley mixed in salty tears, sweet charoset balanced by bitter maror, precious wine spilled onto our plates, and other tastes and stories of enslavement in route to freedom. These embodied symbols, and the children to whom we introduce them, awaken us to not shy away from fully experiencing a life that is both complex and imperfect.
This year I didn’t have it in my stomach to host a saccharine seder of just singing anddayenus; too many family members and friends are in the hospital, too much feels uncertain. Nor did I want to wallow in Egypt. There are just too many blessings in our lives to be enslaved by our present circumstances, and so many rain puddles ripe for thestomping.
Thankfully, puddle stomping does not take much skill or involve nearly as many rules as the rest of Passover! But it certainly helped us all feel a sense of liberation from the stuckness of a rainy day indoors through three simple steps:
1) Go outside into the rain (a raincoat and rain boots recommended, but not required).
2) Find the largest, ugliest puddle in sight.
3) Stomp until you smile and laugh, or both.
At first Lielle was hesitant to step into the puddle. But after watching her mother (well trained by years of camp’s spontaneity and affection for getting dirty) embrace the wetness, she lit up and raced into the water with a little dance. Soon she was splashing around and seeking out the puddles all on her own.
In the coming weeks Lielle and I will undertake the important count from the trauma at the Sea to the triumph of Sinai through sefirat haomer, the counting of the omer, which began on the second night of Passover and continues until the holiday of Shavuot. We take small but significant steps forward while knowing that the pain of “Egypt” — however it manifests for each of us — will never be completely behind us. Yet gazing into my daughter’s eyes, I cannot help but feel a sense of inspiration and relief that no matter how dreary and wet and bitter the days of life can be, she will want to join me outside to stomp through it all. Next year perhaps Elijah will even join us for a romp.
I hope we all can find opportunities for spiritual puddle stomping in the days and weeks ahead as we move forward in our Jewish calendar as well as in our complicated, oft bittersweet existence.
Rabbi Sarah Shulman
Camp Director, Camp Ramah in Northern California