Surprisingly, I had the best seder night ever this year.
The only new thing I had to say shechiyanu on was a jeans skirt that arrived in the post a day before leil seder, two months after I’d ordered it. One kid found a dress in the back of her closet she hadn’t worn before, and then spent an hour making her sister a pair of earrings, so that she’d also have a shechiyanu.
I kept the food basic.
The atmosphere was relaxed, as it was just the core family.
And I was surprised by how ‘good’ I felt during the seder, as so many years, I’ve been taken out spiritually by the koach of Pesach, and sometimes I can’t even complete the meal because I start to feel so yuck.
This year, the blowback only showed up the following day.
I felt down, I felt achy, I felt weirdly dizzy, in parts, and as though my eyes couldn’t focus properly, on and off, all day. I wasn’t the only one. My kids also complained of feeling ‘off balance’ in a way that none of us could really put our fingers on.
And then, mid-afternoon I got hit by a bout of massive, black yeoush, or despair.
There is something about being forcibly confined to your home for weeks, for the ‘crime’ of breathing, that can bring even the most optimistic person down. And honestly? I’ve never been known for my optimism.
Baruch Hashem, I’ve been weathering the storm pretty well the last few weeks, but yesterday afternoon, the day after leil Seder in Israel, I cracked.
I started to feel suffocated and claustrophobic, like I’m in a prison that’s been created by the forces of evil that I can’t seem to break out of, no matter what I do. When that ‘helpless’ feeling hits, it can drag me down to a very low place.
Thankfully, this time I had Rav Berland’s wisdom to shore me up, and to give me a different perspective, before the yeoush could get too much of a grip on me, and totally take over.
I cracked open a book called Alei Siach, in Hebrew, which is a collection of some of the Rav’s letters and discourses on a wide variety of topics, and on page 307, I opened up to a letter that the Rav had written to a young man named David, around 30 years ago.
David – a teenager – was in prison, because he’d defaced posters of untznius women.
The Rav wrote a great deal about the corrupt nature of the State of Israel, but he also told David that he’d been under a heavenly decree of death, and that it had been ‘transmuted’ into a prison sentence, instead.
Not only that, the Rav told David that his sitting in prison and accepting it with love was atoning for the whole of Am Yisrael, and sweetening the judgments upon them that were part of the ongoing Gulf War, where Saddam Hussein was trying to Scud the whole country.
Slowly, I felt my mood start to lift.
This period of time is hard for all of us, make no mistake.
The ‘police state’ aspect of the State of Israel has come rushing to the fore for every single citizen over the last month, as we’re being prevented from leaving our homes, praying in our synagogues, making a living, and even, just breathing a breath of fresh air.
Some days, it’s hard to find the will to continue. Why wake up early, when there is no netz minyan to go to, no mikvah to dunk in, no school for the kids, nothing any of us can really do to bring the agonizing period of limbo and enforced inaction to an end?
Some days, it feels like prison mamash.
It’s hard to keep waiting for things to turn around, for the darkness to finally break, and for the light of Moshiach and geula to actually start shining through.
If you’re struggling right now, if you’re having moments and hours and even days when you’re feeling overwhelmed with yeoush and despair, know that you’re not alone, and that this is a very normal reaction to what is a very trying situation.
But then, pick yourself up and remember that Ein Od Milvado.
God is behind all this. And He’s doing all this for our very best.
Maybe, He’s switched the horrible decrees of death and mass destruction that were prophesized to precede the coming of Moshiach with a mass lockdown instead, that makes us all feel like we are prisoners in our own home.
Just like the Rav told David, that his heavenly death sentence got commuted, maybe, just maybe, that’s what is going on for us, too? And that all this hardship is actually a hidden kindness, which means so many more of us will be able to greet Moshiach and go forward into geula, because we’ve spent the last month locked up in our homes?
The Rav knew this was coming.
The Rav is on top of this, however bleak it currently looks, and however little patience we have left for all this to play itself out, and to finally turn around for the good.
That’s what we have to keep reminding ourselves and those around us.
Ein Od Milvado.
God is doing everything.
And soon, the dawn will break.
You can read more of Rivka’s musing on her blog, here: https://rivkalevy.com/