A Connection Through Time
Sunday is coming to a close, and tomorrow night is the first night of Passover. I just finished cleaning our house and I can’t imagine there could be any chametz anywhere. Chametz is the Hebrew word that stands for all leavened foods forbidden during Passover (wheat, barley, rye, oats, spelt and their derivatives). The outer act of cleaning our homes — of emptying our homes from chametz –– is there to trigger the beginning of an inner process of emptying ourselves from our leavened ego, our puffed-up-ness, which will continue to unfold over the eight days of Passover.
Tonight, as the sun sets, I will gather my children around me, and the three of us will walk through the house at the light of a candle to symbolically look for the last bread crumbs that might have escaped my spring cleaning. I always look forward to this moment. It connects me back to my childhood and doing this with my father and brother, like my father did with his father growing up. Generations of Jews have repeated this ritual called b’dikat chametz year after year for the last two millennia, collecting the crumbs in a container to be burnt in the morning (biur chametz.) Lior, my 10 year old son, asked this morning — as he was watching me getting the house ready — why Passover is such an important holiday compared to others? The first answer that came up for me was that, however religious, whatever their belief or lack thereof, Jews all over the world will be sitting at the Seder table tomorrow night, retelling the story of the Haggadah and partaking of the foods of the Seder plate. Perhaps this holiday, more than any other, is one which connects us through time to all the generations that have come before us, a celebration that is foundational to Jewish identity.
Like we do on Shabbat, we will begin with lighting the candles of the holiday and share the blessing of this Yom Tov of the Good Day that is our Festival. Of course there will be nochallah at dinner. The blessing over bread will occur during the Seder as we bless thematzah. Matzah is called lechem oni, the bread of the poor. This is the bread symbolic of our deflated ego; the bread of humility. This is the bread that we brandish in the air at the very beginning of our telling the story of Passover and declare: “Ha lach’ma anya…”
This is the bread of affliction, the bread of simplicity, which our ancestors ate in the land of Egypt. Let all who are hungry come and eat. Let all who have become estranged or alienated come and eat. All who are yearning for Spirit are invited to come and celebrate the transformation that can happen at Passover. At present we are caught in our limitations; next year may we expand ourselves and truly be in the land of Israel — the land of Divine wrestlers. Now we are still in bonds. Next year may we all be free.
The account of the Haggadah begins with an invitation addressed to anyone who is hungry. Anyone who is hungry may come and celebrate Passover with us. Liberty begins through an invitation to share one’s bread. It is not a question of liberating oneself, but of discovering liberty face-to-face with another person.
From my family to yours, may you find this year’s Passover journey to be deeply meaningful.