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How to Wander in the Desert
It’s Passover, y’all.
I feel so Jewish when I say that. Except I’m not a Jew. I just play one on the the TV show called, “I Married a Nice Jewish Boy and Now We’re Raising Kids Who Get Dreidels in Their Christmas Stockings.”
Tonight I’ll be spreading delicious apple relish on my matzah and dipping my pinky finger in wine and giggling at my daughter’s face when she takes a tiny lick of the maror (raw horseradish).
I’ll be insisting that no one gets up from the table until we sing the final song—Dayenu—which translates to “It would have been enough.” It’s a catchy song with lots of clapping that means: Hey, people, we should celebrate! We got one miracle, two miracles, a whole lifetime of miracles. When one really would have been enough!
I’ll also be thinking about this lady. The one front and center in the green. (Though I’ll be picturing her with a slightly darker complexion for accuracy’s sake.) As pictured here, she’s smack in the middle of the Passover story. If your Old Testament/Torah is rusty, it’s the one where the mean Pharaoh enslaves the Jews until Moses agrees to a go-between job, telling Pharaoh, “God says, ‘Let my people go.’” Then God sends a bunch of plagues for extra convincing, and the Jews are finally free (yay!), but they didn’t go straight to the Promised Land, they wandered in the desert wilderness for 40 years first (boo!). (There’s also a burning bush, a 190-mile sea that parts so people can walk through, and a murder of crows that drop bread (manna) from the sky every day so the people don’t starve.)
Anyway, tonight I’ll be thinking about the green-swathed woman, living her exodus life. Dusty camp. Birthing, burying, raising babies. Probably caretaking her husband’s aging parents.
I’ll be imagining her fifteen, twenty, thirty years into this thing, promises and prophecies beating on like a weary drum. Milk. Honey. Milk. Honey.
Nary an oasis in sight.
I’ll be imagining this woman and how she’s become numb to her father-in-law’s tedious stories about the slave days. The way he lost everyone he loved, almost everyone he knew, to the ravages of cruelty and greed.
She’s become almost deaf to the words “redemption” and “liberation.” Words that once propelled a people eagerly across a sea now tumble, desiccated, across the dusty wasteland.
She is deep in it now. A long and messy in-between time.
I’m imagining this woman because I am her. Her voice rings in my ears, blasting herself for her lack of faith. How could it possibly be hard to believe? After the frogs? The locusts? The blood drying on doorposts while Egyptian mothers wailed in the streets?
Manna falls every damn day from the sky, and still I know she spends most hours cursing this tribe she’s fallen in with, this journey she’s on, trying to distract herself from self-doubt and disappointment with another glass of wine or whatever the olden-days equivalent of doom scrolling was.
I am holding this wanderer with tenderness. She is the me that some days shakes a fist at the sky while lamenting, “I know I asked for this. This life, this family, this vocation, this dream. But right now I can’t see the end. I’m losing faith, and it sucks.”
There’s only one way to get through this wandering. The in-between times when you can hardly recall why you started. When you cannot fathom the end.
Find your kettle and brew yourself a robust amalgam of commitment and trust. Hold it close, allowing it to steep, while the warmth flows to your hands, to your heart. Now, drink it in: I will get there. It is entirely possible that a way will be made for me that I cannot see or imagine right now. (It’s totally okay if you have to do this in tiny sips.)
Then, hey! Turn around and behold the miracles—one, two, a lifetime’s worth—littering your wake. Behold the miracle that is your life in this very moment. Admit to yourself that you have NO IDEA what miracles may be around the next corner. Or the corner after that.
Now, take a deep breath, lift your voice, and sing the enough-ness of this moment.
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