Pesach: Brokenness and Hope

Copyright 2011 Neal Joseph Loevinger

Torah Portion: Pesach

Dear Friends:

Pesach is almost upon us! In the midst of all the cleaning,
shopping and cooking, I do hope you take some time to reflect
upon the meaning of the holiday. You might read a haggadah
that you don’t ordinarily use, in order to glean new commentary;
you might go to the internet (suggestions below) to find great
Passover teachings to bring to your Seder table; you might
simply stop and think about the meaning of matzah, maror, and
zeroa and how eating these foods (or, in the case of zeroa, not
eating) teaches us profound lessons about empathy, memory,
and peoplehood.

For me, a particularly profound moment of the Seder comes right
before we tell the story of our liberation, when we break the
middle matzah, putting one piece back between the two other
matzot and saving one piece as the afikoman. Here is a deep
truth: we have to acknowledge our brokenness, the broken
pieces we all carry around, before we can tell the stories which
set us free. Brokenness exists in a dialectic with healing- or, to
put it another way, we can’t be set free till we know what
imprisons us.

So at the beginning of the seder, we break a matzah,
representing the broken spirits of our ancestors and our own
fears, pains, and griefs. Only then do we tell the story about how
our ancestor Jacob went down to Egypt, but his children came
back out again. We, too, get stuck in “narrow places” (mitzrayim =
Egypt, but in Hebrew, this word means “narrowness” or
constriction) but we too will come back out again singing, if only
we open ourselves to faith and hope. A seder takes a few hours
to go from the first broken matzah to the joyous singing of Hallel
[Psalms of praise] after the meal, but it represents the spiritual
journey of a lifetime, a constant renewal from brokenness to
healing, from constriction to joy, from fear to redemption.

A happy and healthy holiday to all,


For more great Pesach teachings, here’s enough for a month of

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