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Passover often brings up memories of loss, but it can also bring up memories of our initial connection with God at Sinai.
Passover is a family holiday; a time when nostalgia pervades as we dig deep into our rich past and uncover memories -- both joyful and painful.
A dear friend, tearfully shared with me how difficult it is for her to face yet another Passover without her beloved husband. Shortly thereafter, a young man from Israel contacted me. He was preparing for and anticipating the upcoming holiday. He wanted to know why the year of mourning for his mother had not mended the void he felt in his heart over her untimely passing.
As for myself, I move through my kitchen, stopping in my tracks as I find myself uttering the very comments my mother, of blessed memory, used to make at this time of the year. Without question I am thinking her thoughts and doing what she did. As I juggle four frying pans, flipping blintzes in the air, I turn the pages back in my mind some 45 years and see my grandmother doing the same. My married daughters, whether they live in the United States or abroad, call almost daily in advance of the holiday to check if their memory serves them well as they recreate the Passover customs and delicacies with which they grew up.
The rhythms of past, present, and future converge to become one on this holiday.
The rhythms of past, present, and future converge to become one on this holiday. It is indeed a seamless fabric transcending time and space.
“Each and every person should see oneself as though he or she personally was redeemed, leaving the bondage of Egypt,” the Haggadah enjoins. It is as though we are being told if we go back far enough in our collective memories, beyond the immediate conscious recall of wives, husbands, mothers, fathers, and grandparents, we might access and touch -- deep within the recesses of our soul -- the original Exodus experience.
OUT OF BONDAGE
We should literally see ourselves being lifted out of bondage into the loving embrace of our Heavenly parent, redeeming us out of His love for us; choosing us to be His very own people. These pronounced seasonal longings and recollections and the desire for connection are an internal expression of the deep need to connect at the very source of all connection.
Rabbi Elimelech of Liszensk informed his disciples that all of us have etched into our memory the milestone events in our history, such as the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai. He goes so far as to assert that, by putting forth the requisite effort to access that event, he was able to remember who stood next to him during that experience.
When we feel the longing let us take it as an invitation, an opportunity, to connect with God.
Perhaps this level of connection is beyond our scope, but consider the following anecdote witnessed by my brother-in-law at the Kotel, the Wailing Wall, in Jerusalem. An older man was standing at the Wall passionately pouring out his heart and gesturing with his hands. My brother-in-law moved closer, curious to learn more about the nature of this old man’s communications with the Almighty. The man cried, “Dear God in heaven, you know my son’s problem ... his health ... his heart ... he went to the cardiologist ... he sent him on to...” The old man paused, interjecting, “Oh, I am so sorry dear God in Heaven, I already told you that yesterday. Forgive me for repeating myself.” We can ascertain this old man’s connection to God is authentic. God is right there for him, interested in and caring about every detail of his life.
This year, as we sit at our respective Seder tables, surrounded by family and friends, there will invariably be a moment of longing within each one of us. This moment may present itself as personal or collective. It may not be clearly identifiable, when we first sense it, that we are really yearning for what once was. Let us understand and take it as an invitation, an opportunity, and propitious moment to reach, with this longing, for the Being who connected us to Himself at the very moment in history we commemorate and celebrate on this night.
Only the Almighty can assuage our longing and wipe away our tears of loss, pain, and suffering. Only He can bring the ultimate redemption. He is the ultimate loving Parent there for us at our Seder or anytime we choose. And, it is through Him that all of us, living in the past, present or future, are forever joined.
A wonderful holiday to all!