Monday, April 18, 2011

An Apple Peel for Passover

In less than an hour, Passover will begin in our part of the world. The kids have changed their clothing at least three times, I'm still in my clothes from the day and we need to leave for our service and seder in less than 30 minutes. But before I do, I have two things to share, two gifts that just landed in my lap and which will define how I enter into this particular Passover.

The first is a stunning piece of writing by Rabbi Heather Altman, author of a gem entitled "The Yoga of Passover," published in LA Yoga Magazine. In it she writes of how every Seder is like stepping onto the mat in a yoga class:

"Sitting down for the annual Passover seder is like stepping back on the mat for yoga practice; cumulative experiences of familiarity, probing and deepening take each diner to a unique place. Attention on breath teaches us that our inhalation relates to intentional intake. The ritualistic actions of the seder unite intention and practice the moment we place a taste on our lips."

I began today, the work week, and the entry into Passover, in this way - on the mat. As I worked my way through the postures, the concept of transition and the "narrow" places that represents the Exodus came into my breath. What narrow places have I traveled through this year? What narrow places am I in right now? The beauty of yoga is that it teaches us to create breath and space around our narrow places, from tight hamstrings to shallow breathing, and that it is possible, no matter what position, place or circumstance we find ourselves in, to find an oasis of relaxation.

The second gift came in the shape of a long red apple peel. I love making Charoset and of course, eating it. I love how the smell of apples, cinnamon, honey and red wine all come together in a familiar way that always wakes up my senses. After I washed the apples, I got out the peeler and remembered how much my girls love snacking on the peels. I also remembered how my father used to be able to peel an apple in one long, unbroken peel. I used to watch in wonder as the peel got longer and longer, wanting to grab at it, but knowing that would spoil the magic of it all. He used a small paring knife and methodically would turn the apple into the edge of the knife until a perfect spiral of skin and white apple meat sat coiled on the plate. He'd nod his head and I'd take it and raise it high in the air, lowering it into my mouth one spiral at a time.

One of my daughters sat at the table doing her homework while I peeled the apple. I placed a perfectly coiled, unbroken peel by her hand. She looked up and smiled. "Just like Grandpa Leonard used to do, right, Mama?" Right, honey.

To keep the unbroken breath, the unbroken traditions, to sit through the long seder with the same mindset as I have on the yoga mat. To embrace the narrow so that we can open to the expansion that is waiting. With all the patience of an apple peel.

Chag Sameach.