The modern slave By Taryn Cantor

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We live in a time where it is often challenging to find solitary moments to think, let alone make any attempt to reflect deeply.

We are slaves to time, to work, to doing more, being more, owning more. Today we are slaves to excess. We buy and then we buy more, we collect and we collect more, just in case. The irony is, we still never feel as though we have enough. It is the narrative of modern society. The more we do, the more we need to do. The more we get, the more we want. The more we have the more we need, or think we need.

The modern (Jewish) slave seems to demonstrate this even over Pesach time, when we should be going back to less, to remind us of our times in Egypt. We take pride in finding ways around the simple meals, continuing to fool and engorge ourselves with ‘Pesadikke’ substitutes for traditional matzo. We’ve created potato flour rolls, wheat free cereals and bagels, matzo meal cakes and cookies, as if only seven days without is like a lifetime. (How does one even mark the difference of these seven days where everyone is fashionably ‘gluten-intolerant’ anyway?)

There is only one halachic way to make matzo: flour and water. Two ingredients that managed to sustain us and give us what we needed at the time. We should be taking cognisance of what we have — in a time where we historically had nothing — and taking time to be grateful, reassessing that perhaps we don’t need as much as we think we do.

Pesach is that time where we go back to basics in an effort to remember where we came from and reflect on who we are. We are given the opportunity to show gratitude for what we do have, rather than covet what we don’t. Pesach is a holiday of levelling. It reminds us of a time when we were all the same; when we were all slaves in Egypt and we were all treated equally and had equal lots.

Perhaps now more than ever, it is so important that we are reminded of our origins. Pesach gifts us with the opportunity to clean out and let go of those things that are no longer serving us, both physically and spiritually.

We can take a lesson from slaves of ancient Egypt who had to travel light, only taking what they needed. The humble matzo that we eat over Pesach, consisting of only flour and water, even speaks to this notion — a reminder of simplicity, gratitude and self-preservation.

Our own personal Exodus requires work. And that work is essentially the daunting, anxiety-inducing task of cleaning, with which Pesach is most commonly associated. Cleaning is a mundane and painful task, yet makes way for fresh- slate opportunities and perspectives and —like anything worthwhile — new perspectives require work. We would also do well to remember that often, the more painful things are during the process, the more rewarding they are at the end.

Sometimes work also requires embracing support, and asking for help along the way. We are not alone, in this world or the next. We have support structures and people willing to help, if we choose to ask for it. We are reminded annually that we found ourselves as a people, with support and help from one omnipotent source. Even then, we had to ask for help. Seek and you shall find, ask and you shall receive. We are all agents of our own destinies, but we must make that choice to take the first step.

In my work through Redressed, I have created a role where I am privileged enough to assist other people in rediscovering their true potential — usually buried somewhere in and amongst all their excess; physical or emotional. I help them undergo a transformation where their perception of themselves and the perceptions of others are enhanced. The catalyst for this transformation is set off through a process of cleansing, proverbial detoxing and taking stock, encouraging going back to basics and rebuilding — a ‘wardrobe Passover’, if you will. But the key is that my clients come to me for help. They take the first step to ‘de-slavery’.

The enlightenment of the humbleness of cleaning is in the realisation of how much excess we have, how much we accumulate, and how much we hold onto. The effects are evident in the way our ‘stuff’ — literal or figurative — holds us back, keeping us tied to our past and repeating the same cycles of hoarded memories, regrets and traumas. Cleaning is then a process of becoming conscious of how those things we hold on to can become damaging in our present day, and prevent us from moving forward.

Simplification is what we strive for yet we ironically carry on collecting; things, clothes, memories and emotions. Pesach is a time where we’re reminded that less is more. We can do with less. The simple matzo replaces the ‘haughty’ bread. Pesach is that time of year that becomes an excuse to fulfil all those procrastinated promises of cleaning out, getting rid of and minimising.

Simplicity is in the understanding of going back and the act of remembering — remembering where we came from and who we really are as Jews and as individuals. Pesach marks the time for assessment and taking stock, and being grateful for what we have, as much or as little as we do, trusting that it is enough, having faith and remembering to ask for help.

Being a slave in ancient Egypt meant that we lead a life of less and we were probably more content. Today we are slaves to more-is-more-is-more… The difference is not whether we have less or more, but rather that today, we have the freedom to choose.

Redressed is making an appeal: If your Pesach Detox extends to your wardrobe, please donate previously adored clothes to an upcoming community charity project, which is aimed at empowering women and helping them feel more confident through dress. For more information please send an email to: info@redressed. co.za or check out www.redressed.co.za

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