I struggled to fall asleep last night. I got home late from my parents’ house, as I had stayed to have dinner with my parents, sister and brother-in-law. Although I drove everyone crazy saying I had to leave early, I was still home much later than I wanted. I got to bed by 11.15pm, which shouldn’t have been too bad, but I was alert and couldn’t sleep; after twenty minutes or so I got up, took a sleeping tablet and watched Doctor Who until it kicked in. I was probably too stressed and anxious to sleep, but the stress and anxiety isn’t going to go away until after Pesach now and that was my last sleeping tablet, which is a little ominous.
Today was difficult. There was a lot of anxiety. It feels odd to have anxiety predominating over depression, which probably hasn’t happened since Pesach last year, which I guess proves that the OCD is under control for eleven months of the year. The surprise was that not all of the anxiety was OCD-related, or Pesach-related, as my religious OCD focuses on Pesach more than anything, especially now I feel I’ve more or less got to grips with my ordinary kashrut (dietary law) OCD. I was worried about various potential infringements of the Pesach laws that may have happened last year resulting in us not being able to use our utensils this year and in cleaning and kashering this year. I also knew that I shouldn’t ask for reassurance from my rabbi, as that fuels the OCD, but should just accept the anxiety and uncertainty, particularly as I was fairly sure that things were OK. However, in the end I gave in and asked about two of the four questions that were bothering me. Predictably, the anxiety has shot up since asking (I haven’t heard back yet), so I must try not to ask any more questions unless I’m really sure that something is wrong, or at least that I don’t know the answer.
The other thing I was worrying about is my sister’s welfare. She’s really stressed at the moment, with Pesach and with work. She said that she will be fine in three weeks, once Pesach is over, but I catastrophise and worry that something terrible is going to happen to her. I feel that I would accept suffering to protect my little sister from it, but I don’t think that life works like that.
I had a thought today, building on what I wrote yesterday. It really hit me that there isn’t really a way I could get karet (spiritual excision, probably losing one’s share of Olam HaBa (the Next World)) for eating chametz (leaven) on Pesach. Obviously that is the biblical punishment, but (even ignoring the idea that no one gets karet any more), it’s hard to imagine a situation where we would deliberately eat chametz on Pesach. It is true that for most of my life we didn’t kasher our kitchen properly for Pesach, but that was through ignorance. I do have particular worries about things that I shouldn’t share here, but for the moment the only way an issue would arise is if something happens that my parents think is OK, but I do not think is OK. The only thing I can imagine in this category at the moment is if someone brings some questionable food to our house that my parents think is OK, but I don’t. I know we have not-so frum guests who are bringing food, but I think I can trust them to buy from a kosher for Pesach shop out of respect for our standards and my parents have said I can check the hechshers (rabbinic certification) before we put it out. What I really worry about is the potential argument more than anything. It’s the human element that worries me, the having to navigate the feelings that get aroused when my understanding of kosher (kosher for Pesach in this instance) doesn’t correspond with other peoples’. This can happen, but the fear is the argument more than the sin, the re-enacting of the arguments that have terrified and upset me since I was a small child. I have to tell myself that I’m not a small child any more, I’m an adult, I can state my case and am usually taken more seriously than I was as a child; if no one accepts what I say, I have the right to make my own decisions for myself. That’s hard to admit, though, and I do worry about a situation arising where my standards conflict with those around me causing a huge argument and a week-long stand off.
That was actually a digression! What I wanted to say was that today I had a sense of my worst Pesach sins being accidental and HaShem (God) forgiving me for them. I have never really had this feeling before, it felt new and pleasant. I don’t want to be one of those people who assume that God agrees with whatever they do, however bad (that way lies terrible behaviour to people as well as to God), but I did feel… I’m not sure that I can put it into words, but accepting that this is partially rationalisation after the event, I felt that He accepts that I am doing my best, that He has given me a lot of tzores (suffering) and challenges that other people don’t have, and that He forgives me. Maybe even that He loves me, but I’m not sure about that.
Although reading the last two paragraphs back, the bit about arguments and people bringing the wrong food seems really true and worrying, while the bit about being loved and forgiven seems like wishful thinking! I obviously have some way still to go…