top of page

Wading into the reeds - approaching Pesach 5784/2024

Wading into the reeds - approaching Pesach 5784/2024 by Chana-Toni Whitmont

As I write this, I am still reeling. Less than one kilometre away, at my local shopping centre, a man has gone on a rampage. People have been killed. People have been wounded. We are mercifully unused to these tragedies in Australia. That they are now happening in Sydney’s Jewish heartland, is particularly chilling given the current climate. Please G-d may the location prove to be an unhappy coincidence.

A week out from Pesach, with Israel now being directly targetted by Iran, the hostages still interred, and so much of the world seemingly turning its back on Israel and Diaspora Jews, it feels like we are all wading into the reeds, all triggered into our own particular trauma.


With fault lines widening into cracks betweens friends and families near and far, I have been asking myself if I can even hold an authentic and inclusive Seder. How can I honour the tradition with all of its awesome potential, and at the same time, acknowledge the chasm on whose edge we all teeter? 


Wait a minute. Perhaps, I could just sit with the truth of whatever rises. Might that temper my own hardened Pharaonic heart? Perhaps I just need to back away from the “I” a bit. Or, as poet and activist Andrea Gibson suggests, rather than trying harder, I could try softer.

Rabbi Sheila Peltz-Weinberg writes about summoning courage to loosen the bonds to a constructed, defended self, to an absolute permanent solid “me”. 

"However, when there is awareness of the constructed self, with- 

out judgment or shame, the pain releases.The heart releases, the 

trapdoor opens, something erases a line in the box we have drawn 

around who we are. We step out into possibility, infinity, poten- 

tial, wonder. A desire for the wholesome intentions, responsibility, 

connection, and commitment remain. But these are grounded in 

the dynamic of relationship”, she says in her book, God Loves the Stranger.

For me, releasing the heart, which surely is the message of Pesach, depends on my softening, on my faith that my world can be radically remade just through my own choices and awareness, and on my understanding that sometimes, just sometimes, it is possible to release a bit of the I/ani /אני and open to the invitation of the No-thingness/ayin/אין.

Roberta Wall writes that with Passover upon us, we have to wade through the reeds, we have to risk being pulled under. Her musings inspired the title of the mixed media collage I created today - Wading into the Reeds.

Materials used:

Patterned papers - Australian eucalyptus bark print, AB Studios Collected Moments

Ephemera - inked resin moulds, hessian bows, vintage hat pin, dried rose petals originally collected after the funeral of a loved one, bronze keyhole, chipboard inked rushes and reeds, Australian king parrot feather collected in my garden, reed handmade paper.

Text boxes

Bnei Yissascher, Nisan 8:2 

For You, Hashem, do not abandon those who seek You (Psalms 9:11).

This is an allusion to the dough, which it is forbidden to abandon and leave to rest without a craftsperson (omein) working it. 

And if the craftsperson abandons it, it ceases to be what it was, for it can no longer be called “matzah” but rather “chametz”, for “For You, Hashem, do not abandon those who seek You” even for a single moment. 

R. Menachem Froman, Ten Li Zeman, Give me Time

If a person believes that the world is created, then he believes that the world could be radically remade anew.

Andrea Gibson (You Better Be Lightning) 

I decided I was too soft to last.

But then I decided to be even softer. 

R. Sheila Peltz-Weinberg, God Loves the Stranger

It is a path, a mysterious process to become an awake being, a Jew discovering the tzelem elohim and facing the tzel, the shadow that obstructs the shining forth of the pure soul.

Babylonian Talmud, Taanit 20b

R. Eleazar son of R. Simeon entered [the Beit Midrash] and expounded, One should always be soft like a reed and not hard like a cedar. And for this reason the reed merited that of it should be made a quill for the writing of the Torah scroll, phylacteries and mezuzot.

Now I Become Myself by May Sarton 

Now I become myself. It’s taken 

Time, many years and places;

I have been dissolved and shaken, 

Worn other people’s faces, 

Run madly, as if Time were there, 

Terribly old, crying a warning,

“Hurry, you will be dead before—” 

(What? Before you reach the morning? 

Or the end of the poem is clear? 

Or love safe in the walled city?) 

Now to stand still, to be here,

Feel my own weight and density! 

The black shadow on the paper

Is my hand; the shadow of a word 

As thought shapes the shaper

Falls heavy on the page, is heard.

All fuses now, falls into place

From wish to action, word to silence, 

My work, my love, my time, my face 

Gathered into one intense 

Gesture of growing like a plant. 

As slowly as the ripening fruit

Fertile, detached, and always spent, 

Falls but does not exhaust the root, 

So all the poem is, can give,

Grows in me to become the song, 

Made so and rooted by love. 

Now there is time and Time is young. 

O, in this single hour I live

All of myself and do not move.

I, the pursued, who madly ran, 

Stand still, stand still, and stop the sun! 

Text sources

Applied Jewish Spirituality, Dimensions of Freedom - Purim to Passover Classes 5 & 6

Institute for Jewish Spirituality & Or HaLev, Nezah Class 4 - Softening Our Sense of Self.


Chana-Toni Whitmont is a collage artist, crystal sound practitioner, creative, teacher and student whose practice and passions are born from her spiritual connection to her Jewish lineage and the ebbs and flows in the annual calendar cycle. She lives on magnificent Bidjigal, Birrabirragal and Gadigal Country (also known as Bondi), on the Pacific coast of Australia.


bottom of page