Passover must always fall in the spring. It’s a rule of the Jewish calendar and a whole leap month will be added to the calendar to make sure this happens. For Orthodox Jews, this also means that Passover cleaning is a form of spring cleaning, with cabinets cleared out and all manner of pasta, flour, and baked goods being used up in preparation of the holiday. It’s all about letting go of what’s holding us back from reaching the next level, from really being free.
In Alaska, spring comes slowly and then there is one week, usually at the end of April, were everything springs to life. For now, we’re in the part of the year where the sun is rapidly winning time from the night and things are melting during the long daylight hours, only to freeze again at night. It’s a constant back and forth as more snow comes some nights and then more ice and snow melts again in the day as winter and spring fight against each other each day. Alaskans typically call this strange season before spring “breakup” and it lasts much longer than the quick burst of Spring we get for about a week when all trees and plants suddenly burst into leaf and bloom all at once with almost no night to slow them down.
It’s against this backdrop along with our own season of letting go of most of our possessions in preparation for our big move that Passover comes this year.
Moving the distance that we are moving really requires you to look critically at what you own and make some tough decisions. Often, it’s cheaper overall to buy things after you move rather than haul them across the continent. Since we decided to move, we’ve slowly been paring down our belongings. Each pass, we carve off more of what we’ve held onto, only to revisit it again. How many pairs of shoes does each person really need? Will I ever find an occasion for that shirt? How many books can I let go of?
I imagine that the Hebrews had less to go through as they prepared to leave Egypt. Being slaves, they didn’t have a big house full of cross country skis and winter gear to sort through. Still, they had to travel light as they left. Even deeper, they had to be willing to let go of everything that held them back from freedom, the attitudes and habits that tied them to slavery in Egypt. Our journeys are so far apart in time and geography, but I think my family is feeling something similar. If our Rabbi is correct, this is our last Passover as non-Jews and there is a lot to go through to decide what to take with us…and what to leave behind.
The logistics ahead are daunting, but nothing like a whole nation walking out of Egypt into the unknown. We have flights for most of the family and we’ll have bags aplenty. Then, my husband will undertake the long, lonely trip from Alaska, through Canada, in a Uhaul with the small pile of what we think we shouldn’t leave behind. We estimate, with construction and Shabbos observance included, the trip will take 2 weeks. He’ll cross two international borders, travel through remote mountain ranges and empty plains, and much of it will be outside of cell phone coverage. He’s looking forward to the trip, though, seeing it as a chance to clear his head and regroup before joining us in our new community. In the meantime, I’ll be settling the kids and I into our new home.
In many ways, this process takes us full circle back to the beginning of our Alaskan adventure.
When we moved up here, I came up a month in advance and found us a place to live. I brought very little with me and among the things I’d brought was our cat, Iggy. Iggy and I essentially camped in the new home with an air mattress and only a few basics. A month later, my husband joined me and then a week later, I flew back to the east coast, picked up the kids, spent a very tiring night watching over them in an airport, and then flew all the way back to Alaska…and promptly went back to work the next day. It’s never easy moving an entire family of four across a continent. Still, I’ll never forget their amazement when they first looked out the plane window and saw the snowy mountains below.
Our truck and other belongings arrived a couple of months later, so we essentially spend 4 months camping in our house on air mattresses without chairs. It was so exciting when the moving truck with our stuff showed up!
This move will be somewhat smaller since we are doing it ourselves. There is no company paying to move us. There are no movers coming to lift our boxes into a truck. It’s just us and a lot of faith. We have faith that everything will work out and that we’ll all be reunited safely in our new home. We have faith that our house here in Alaska will sell. We have faith that we’re not making a big mistake by leaving Alaska…a place so wild and beautiful that it’s hard to find anything like it anywhere else.
We have just 2 short months left here in the mountains as we turn our faces south. As we prepare for this Passover, there are so many mixed feelings and so many ways we connect with the story of the Exodus. I wish there was a way to be more certain of the path, but we have no Moses to guide and reassure us, no clouds of glory, no pillar of fire. We simply have our faith and hope and a lot of maps.
In the season of letting go, sometimes the most important thing to let go of is fear and doubt.