I've been sitting with this Anaïs Nin quote for a while. "And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was greater than the risk it took to bloom." It feels especially resonant to me as Pesach draws near. The Pesach story is one of risk-taking.
The Pesach story says: in every life there are familiar constrictions. Sometimes we suffer them. Sometimes we accept them grudgingly. Sometimes we embrace them. Sometimes we grow so accustomed to them that we forget they're there.
And in every life there are awakenings. We realize that we don't need to stay where we are. We realize that we could choose to risk the unknown, even though it's scary, even though we don't know what lies ahead. The Pesach story says: take the leap. Step into the sea and trust that it will part for you.
The Pesach story says, if we wait until we feel fully ready we might never act at all. The Pesach story says, we can stay where we are indefinitely, but at what cost to our hearts and our souls? We are made to change and grow, and sometimes that means setting out into the wilderness of not-knowing. Sometimes that means taking the risk of trusting that good things lie ahead, even if we can't see them from here. Sometimes it means leaping before we feel ready, because the whole idea of "ready" becomes something that's holding us back.
Can you imagine what it's like to be a tulip curled into a bulb, waiting patiently through the long and perhaps snow-covered winter for the indescribable call to unfold, to stretch toward the light, to shatter and expand and become something glorious and new? The Pesach story is like that. It's the beginning of our unfolding into the nation we continue to become. As a people we were curled into a tight place until we were brought forth from there -- maybe by the same ineffable force that whispers to tulip bulbs when it's time to burst free and emerge from underground.
Tradition teaches that each of us must relate to the Pesach story as though it had happened not then to them but also to us. The movement from constriction to freedom is recapitulated in every life, in the trajectory of every soul. But it's not just an individual story; the Pesach story is also a collective one. After the Exodus our mixed multitude became a people. We went forth together, and together we grew into something new, something greater than the sum of its parts. We went from being slaves of Pharaoh to being servants of the One. This is the core story of Jewish peoplehood.
The Pesach story doesn't offer easy answers. Torah reminds us that once the children of Israel leave Egypt they kvetch bitterly, missing the familiar comforts of the life they used to know even though that life contained grief and silencing and hard labor. That's human nature. It's hard to leave what we've known, even if we believe that God is bringing us forth from where we've been in order that we might be made new. In order that we might serve from that place of having been made new. Each of us has to choose, time and again, to become. To be open to changing. To learn to bloom.
Blooming is a risk. There could be a late frost, or not enough rain, or not enough sun. Anything could go wrong! There are always reasons not to bloom, or not to bloom yet. Pesach comes to call us out of those reasons. The One Who spoke to Moshe from the burning bush claimed the name "I Am Becoming What I Am Becoming." Our God is always becoming, and so are we. The day comes when the risk of remaining tight in a bud is greater than the risk of choosing to follow God's example and become. Maybe this is that day. What would you need in order to trust that this can be that day for you?
Chag sameach -- wishing a deep and sweet and meaningful Pesach to all who celebrate.