Thursday, April 5, 2012

Chemo and Passover (Round 3, Week 1)

Wednesday...finishing the "long day" at DFCI
My third round of chemo started Tuesday.   This Friday and Saturday evenings are the first two nights of Passover, the nights of the Passover Seders.  For as long as I can remember, Passover has been a big holiday in our home, and one of my favorite Jewish holidays.  Since we've been married, Fran and I have always hosted big festive Seders.  It is one of my favorite meals to prepare, an always special gathering of family and friends, and an important reminder of the many things that we have to be thankful for.  This year will be different, not because we don't have a lot to be thankful for -- we do! -- but, the Seders are being hosted by family and friends, who kindly offered to host.  And, this year, I likely will not be able to participate.  I will miss it.

Passover is often referred to as a 'celebration of Jewish freedom'.  It is that, for sure. But, it is much more than that, in addition to always being a special gathering of family and friends,  it is a reminder of Jewish responsibility and of the positive impact that we can have on the world around us.  If you'll indulge me, since I probably won't be at a Seder, there are a few parts of the story that always stay with me:
  • after generations of exile as slaves in Egypt, the beginning of our redemption started with one person, Moses, rising up against the oppression.   While our ultimate escape from Egypt, and freedom in the land of Israel, came with G-d's intervention, Moses made the first person can change history
  • after escaping Egypt, we spent forty years in the desert, two generations, before we re-entered Israel, the land of our ancestors.   That is a long time, it means that most of the people who entered Israel were not the slaves that escaped Egypt, but their children.   Yet they fully embraced the story of redemption, and it's telling to every generation since "as if you were there".   What does that mean they were doing for those 40 years in the desert?  Among other things, it means that the parents, and elders, were teaching their children to embrace their history, appreciate their freedom, and respect the responsibility that comes with that freedom -- specifically that as long as their are oppressed people, Jewish or not, we have a responsibility for work for their freedom.   From those roots, we have the continuing commitment today of the Jewish community to world service, justice, social action, outreach, and philanthropy.   It is a tall order, and a lasting legacy of our ancestor's commitment to teaching their children the 'story' of our own redemption being told and reflected on "as if we were there".
  • during our 40 years in the desert, Moses received the Torah, the law, on Mt Sinai.  We entered the desert as Israelites, descendants of Abraham.   We returned to Israel as Jews.  At Mt Sinai, we rejected idols and become the first of the monotheistic religions.  From those roots, came each of the other monotheistic religions, Christianity, Islam, Bahai, Druze, and others.  It is worth recalling that we are all of the same roots.
I'm sure that the Rabbi's and better Judicially educated among my friends and readers may have some corrections to my comments or interpretations.  And, they and others will each of their own reasons for why Passover resonates strongly with them.   But, these are mine.  On this year when I probably will not be at a Seder, thank you for letting me share them. 

On this Passover, I am truly thankful for the freedom and ability to fight this cancer, for the unconstrained love of my family, the kindness, prayers, and good wishes from friends across time and space, and to live in a time and place where we have the medical care and knowledge to put the odds in my favor.

To all of my family and friends celebrating Passover this year, I wish you a Chag Sameach.

And, to each of my friends celebrating Easter this year, Happy Easter.

The 'once and future' me.  Courtesy of Hazon, and the 2011 CA Ride.


Barb Dunlap Chapman said...


Your writing is so beautiful. You've no idea how much I desire and seek understanding of the Jewish faith. It fascinates me, and makes so much sense. I wish, when I was a religious studies major at Beloit, that I had taken advantage of more courses focusing on Judaic study. So, that's part one.
Part two... I am blown away at your strength of spirit and your physical strength as well. To be able to write with such clarity and to do this during a time when you are feeling absolutely miserable (I remember it well)is truly remarkable.
Your spiritual and physical strength will serve you very well and I am sure you will come back from all this that much stronger.
You have so much yet to teach me and to share with the world.
I hope Passover brings you and your loved ones renewed hope and strenthens the bonds you share.
My respect and fondness for you continues to grow as I watch your progess through this difficult journey.
Peace and blessings, my friend.


Great or Good? said...

Nice, David! You've given us something important to contemplate at the seder, so in a sense,even if you can't make it this year, you will certainly be there. Amid our light hearted seder banter and singing, these are exactly the discussions we need to grapple with.
We'll send part of the seder home to you and see if you have replies in any of the designated categories ( Alaska cruise, Thanksgiving, and Freedom are among those categories--not to mention an old favorite, SSDS!).