- Posted by Elaine Zecher
- On April 3, 2020
- 0 Comments
Welcome to Shabbat Awakenings, a weekly reflection as we move toward Shabbat. You can listen to it as a podcast HERE.
Welcome to Shabbat Awakenings, our weekly reflection as we make our way toward Shabbat and this week, Passover.
The Israelites knew suffering. They understood cruelty and demeaning labor. How could they not as slaves? But they also sensed redemption in the battle between the Pharaoh who claimed divinity and the One God who had it all along. They watched the plagues ravage the land and the Egyptian people themselves, subjects of their Sovereign leader who could not shield them from pestilence and disease.
The last plague involved the Israelites, too. To protect them, Moses gave this instruction:
Take a bunch of hyssop, dip it in the blood that is in the basin, and apply some of the blood that is in the basin to the lintel and to the two doorposts. None of you shall go outside the door of his house until morning. (Exodus 12:22)
The Talmud (Bava Kama 60a) found this to be a curious instruction. It asked:
What is the meaning of that which is written with regard to the plague of the firstborn…If the plague was not decreed upon the Jewish people, why were they not permitted to leave their homes?
And then it answered its own question:
Once permission is granted to the destroyer to kill, it does not distinguish between the righteous and the wicked.
It is at that moment that the Israelites experienced the fear of uncertainty. Would they be truly protected? As the great Torah scholar, Aviva Zornberg, observes, “…the drama of that night is an engulfing destruction: it is for this reason, the Talmud asserted, that the Israelites are under house arrest that whole night. (The Particulars of Rapture, p.170)
We can empathize with the Israelites trapped in their homes with an invisible destroyer causing death all around them. The safest place for them and for us is the home where we reside.
This coming week we will still be in our homes when the festival of Passover begins. We will recall that very night our ancestors remained within the walls of their houses to try to protect themselves. Redemption would come even if they were uncertain exactly when it would happen.
We retell the story of the Passover because we are uncertain, too. Fear resides on the lintel and doorposts, as well. But it is also our passageway to freedom. We will walk through that door again toward hope and possibility, even with our hearts still aching. The Seder experience does not drown us in anxiety and degradation but rather celebrates dignity and a world filled with the potential of redemption.
This is why this year, we are holding a Grand Communal Seder for all those who desire to sit at the Seder table together from the safety of our own homes. There is a place for everyone through Zoom!
Let all who are hungry for connection, fellowship, and the retelling of the magnificent story of our people, come share the festival of Passover together.
Shabbat Shalom and Hag Sameah!
* * *