Pesach Cleaning: Ghosts and Gold Cracks

A few years back, I auditioned for a prestigious Asia-wide orchestra summer camp. To put it very mildly, the panelist declined me and gave me his very frank thoughts on my playing. What he said about my playing I was able to shrug off after a few days, but something else he said haunted me for years: “Do your country a favor and stop teaching [violin], you don’t know what you’re doing.”

Since then, I had always taught with some apprehension. Whenever I had a difficult time with a student his words would ring in my ears and I wondered if maybe I should just find all my students new teachers. 

Fast forward: the date is March 26, 2017, and I am performing with some friends for a group of underprivileged kids who another friend of mine had been giving lessons to. I thought it would be a wonderful boost for the kids to see an actual string quartet in action, so we set the date and did it. That experience deserves a whole entry on its own, but one conversation with one of the kids made an incredible impact on me:

“That little girl who played Lightly Row plays extremely well,” I told her. “Who is her teacher?”

“Oh, I am!” She said.

I was caught off guard. “Really?”

“Yeah. The first batch of students, we all learned from sir Giovanni (my friend) himself.” She explained. “But now we’re the ones teaching the new ones who come in.”

Her words lingered with me after we left, and slowly I realized how much I had been overanalyzing teaching the past few years. I was so scared to make a mistake I kept tripping over myself. This girl thought all she did was tell me about their orchestra’s system, but she did something much more: she pushed away a ghost that had been haunting me for years. I had let one thing one man said shake my confidence all this time, and all it took was one thing one little girl said to get it back.

Pesach (or before it, rather) is the time to clean our houses and other spaces and get rid of all the chometz. I’d heard many times Pesach is also a time for personal / inner freedom, but this was the first time I’d actually experienced it. I wish I could share a fool-proof formula for shaking off past ghosts in time for the holiday, but these are the things that really depend on each person and each circumstance.

What I can give however, is this: a blessing and prayer that you reading this now, whoever you may be, may you read or hear something as well to trigger the letting go of the inner “chometz” you are holding inside you, whether you are aware of it or not. It’s Pesach, it’s the time for freedom – as important as it is to clean our outside environment, I hope you find some time for some inner cleaning as well, and some confronting of past ghosts. And afterwards, I personally love this idea…
May you find yourself more beautiful and lined with gold. 😉 A happy and kosher Pesach!

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