There is a Sefardic (Iraqi or Afghani) custom of turning to the person beside you, asking these three questions, and offering the three brief answers.
Who are you? (I am Yisrael.)
Where are you coming from? (I am coming from Mitzrayim.)
Where are you going? (I am going to Yerushalayim.)
Who are you?
I'm Yisrael. I'm a God-wrestler. I'm someone who wrestles with the holy, with the Source of All Being, with my understanding of ultimate reality, and I expect God to wrestle back. I dance with God. I waltz with Torah. I stay up all night grappling with angels, and even if I come away limping, I know I come away blessed. I'm a wandering Aramean, and I'm wearing my traveling shoes. I'm a child of the house of Israel, and my community and I—and anyone else who hears freedom's call—are walking into the wilderness together.
Where are you coming from?
I'm coming from Mitzrayim. From the narrow place. From slavery. From constriction. From the birth canal. I'm coming from hard labor. I'm coming from the surfeit of sweetness that lulls me into forgetting the world's imperfections. I've been settling for what hurts, too fearful to risk something new. I'm coming from suffering and isolation. I'm coming from addiction to my work, addiction to success, addiction to separation. I'm coming from "if I stopped working, I'm not even sure who I'd be."
Where are you going?
I'm going to Yerushalayim. I'm going to Ir Shalem, the city of wholeness. I'm going to Ir Shalom, the city of peace. I'm going where talking to God is a local call. I'm heading toward my best imaginings of community and connection. I'm clicking my ruby slippers with fervent kavanah and moving toward the meaning of home. Maybe I'm going to a place; maybe I'm going to a state of mind. Maybe it's an asymptotic progression toward something that can't be reached. Maybe it's the journey that defines me.
Run that by me again?
I am Yisrael. I am coming from Mitzrayim. And the moon is almost full: tomorrow we're packing our bags. Grabbing the flatbread. And setting out. It's time to go.
A note on Israel:
Passover celebrates freedom, exemplified in the story of our Exodus from Egypt. That story leads our entry into Israel—not exactly a simple redemption tale. Especially not now, as Israelis and Palestinians continue to fight for their mutual Promised Land, and to shed blood in pursuit of its ownership.
In light of that situation, some of us may have complicated feelings about identifying with Israel. But “Israel” doesn’t refer only to the Land. “Israel” is the name which was given to Jacob after he spent the night wrestling with an angel of God. Therefore “the people Israel” can be interpreted as “Godwrestling people”—“people who take on the holy obligation of engaging with the divine.”
When I see the word "Israel"
When I see the word Israel I see Isra-el wrestles with God. God isvictorious
When I see the word I do not see the chosen few I see those few who choose
Those few who choose to wrestle with You, a contest in which both wrestlers are one and in which the one is victorious
I see those few who choose, among the many nations among all people, those few who choose to make love to you and those who say: I betroth myself to you whether it feels like honey or a thornbush because even the thornbush sometimes glows with fire of revelation
When I see the world Israel I know many claim it as their own. As a title a privilege a status As if God chose them
they are right in this: God chooses but they are wrong in thinking: only them
God breathes through many begotten sons and daughters. God wrestles through his glorious perverts and professors
and as there is only one contestant for better or for worse in shit and in shine this wrestling is an embrace of recognition and delight
do you seek God? God seeks you. Who will you allow to be victorious?
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