By Andie Insoft, President, Temple Emeth
The new Jewish bride is preparing her first Passover brisket. Before putting the brisket into the oven, she blithely cuts off the ends. Appalled, her husband asks her why she cut off the best part. Her answer is simple, “That’s the way my mother always makes it!”
The following Shabbat, when they go to Bubbe’s house, the bride asks why she cuts the ends off the brisket. “Well,” replied the sage Bubbe, “that is the only way it will fit into the pan.”
We adhere to so many traditions, many of which seem to hold a deep, dark secret. When we explore a bit further, we realize that there is really just a practical reason for these actions. Maybe that reason no longer exists (we now have roasting pans in any size we want!); but we keep the tradition none-the-less. Why do we do this? Why do we do something that we no longer have to do – and throw away the best part of the brisket in the process?
There is something to be said for keeping traditions, but there is also a place for questioning and making one’s own choices. Once we know the reasons behind the ritual, we are free to decide what is right for us. Perhaps by holding on to the old ways, we close ourselves off from what is in front of us.
We have choices – some choices that our grandparents didn’t have. While recognizing the importance of rituals, we can also allow ourselves to be liberated. Adhering to an action that is no longer meaningful is a form of bondage. We are enslaved by doing things – “just because.” I love the beginning of Fiddler on the Roof and the song “Tradition,” but even Tevye came to understand that change is important.
In this season of renewal and for remembering and re-creating the journey from slavery to freedom, we can all take a look at the ties that bind us: the ways in which we are stuck doing something that perhaps is just not right for us. We have a choice. We can continue with an old habit or we can change the way we do things. It is this acceptance and embracing of change which will give us the ability to move forward out of our own personal bondage into a new light.
As for me, I may still cut the ends off my brisket, but I will do it because I want to …. and because that is the way my Nana did it. But, it will be my choice.
I hope the season of Pesach and the spring bring with them many chances for you to feel renewed.