10/11 Apr: Shabbat Chol Hamoed Pesach :Shabbat comes in 7:34 pm, ends 8:40 pm
It has always long astounded me that, in the Passover Seder, matzah plays two parts: the bread of our affliction and the bread of our freedom. I don’t think I fully recognised what that meant until this year. This year, we are trading in bustling family and communal seders for small affairs – perhaps some of us will even be making seder on our own. It’s an unusual year to be celebrating our freedom – but we’ve celebrated freedom in much worse circumstances, too. This year, I’ll be reflecting on how this small seder (the smallest and quietest of any seder I’ve ever participated in) is both a sign of affliction and a sign of freedom. A sign of affliction, because – like many – I yearn for family, friends, and a multitude of voices raised in song. A sign of affliction because our society is undergoing a challenging time, and even walking outside feels like pushing on the barrier of the rules. But also a sign of freedom, because this meagre seder is a sign that we have the freedom to choose to look after one another. By staying inside, we are acting with compassion, grace, and love.
This year, I will look upon the matzah with new eyes.
I wish you a chag kasher v’sameach, a kosher and joyous festival. The source of our joy might be different this year than the last, but may we cross over to freedom with a new understanding of what freedom means.
So in terms of a punishment for the people of Noah’s time, the flood and the destruction of all living things does seem a bit extreme. One of my rabbis, Rabbi Brad Artson argues, that is exactly the point the Torah is trying to make.
Destruction, even when it comes from the God who is “slow to anger and abounding in kindness” bursts beyond any manageable or fair limitations. Even punishments, originally intended to be measured and reasonable, provoke unanticipated suffering and hardship.
Rabbi Paul Arberman.
Abraham Joshua Heschel believed that Adam’s sin was primarily in hiding from God and from himself. This is not, in Heschel’s eyes, an abstract idea; we all hide from God and from ourselves. Heschel expresses it thus in the third verse of his poem I and Thou:
” Often I glimpse Myself in everyone’s form,
hear My own speech – a distant, quiet voice – in people’s weeping,
as if under millions of masks My face would lie hidden. ”
Heschel is describing a personal experience in which he has hidden from himelf, his essence absorbed within society. His face is masked, hidden from view, making the idea to “know thyself” impossible.
I’m not sure why we hide from ourselves so well when we are young — or perhaps we just don’t take the time to think through who we are — but I can say definitively, that one of the great joys of getting older is the unmasking — getting to know yourself — what you actually enjoy or don’t enjoy doing.
Written by Rabbi Paul Arberman