Metzorah Hagadol 5784

This Shabbat is known as Shabbat Hagadol, the Great Shabbat, because it is the one immediately preceding Pesach. It was the time rabbis gave their longest sermons of the year as they prepared their communities for Pesach, reminding them of the rules and laws, the meaning and the rituals of this season. This year the words of preparation are different, this year this seder night is not like every other seder night. This year, we sit down at our seder tables with empty chairs not just for Elijah but for all the hostages, all those who are missing from their family gatherings as they pass six months in captivity. There are also seder tables all over Israel where chairs are empty, everyone has lost someone, everyone is grieving the absence of those they loved, taken from them too soon. And as we drop the wine from our cups to remember the suffering of the Egyptian people, those who bore the consequences of the Pharaoh’s actions, we drop wine for the Palestinian people who are carrying the weight of the decisions of Hamas. They have lost those they love, they are suffering alongside us and we must not rejoice in their pain and tragedy.

When we take the middle matzah this year and break it, we feel the brokenness of our world. The violence brought to our own doorstep last weekend, the war, the loss, the incredible suffering across the globe. We are shattered. Relationships have been broken, we have felt the sting of a hatred we thought was long buried, there is so much grief and struggle and loss. The matzah feels truly the bread of affliction, the salt water of our tears is overflowing, the bitterness is on our tongues. And if the seder ended here, we could find ourselves drowning in despair. But we are to move from slavery to redemption, from suffering to freedom, to taste the bitterness and the salty tears but then the sweetness of the charoset, the egg of the promise of new life. The matzah is a magical bread which transforms through the seder from the bread of affliction to the bread of our freedom. The bread is the same, but it tastes different when we eat it in despair and when we eat it in hope. We taste the possibilities, we remember that we were slaves, but then we were free. The message of the seder is one of hope, reminding us that there can and will be a better tomorrow, that the struggle and suffering will not be eternal. Through our journey of the seder we come to know that we can make the world whole, just as we bring the two broken pieces of matzah together. Our shattered hearts will repair, our grief will soften and we will find laughter, joy and blessing again. 

This year as we sit at our seder tables, the words will have a different resonance, they will be poignant in a new way, because, as it says in the Haggadah, “in every generation” there is a new challenge, a new struggle and it is for us to traverse through the slavery to discover redemption. This year, we acknowledge the struggle, we pray for the captive and missing, we feel the absence, we recognise that our world which felt safe, does not feel that way at the moment. But we do not stay there, we walk to the waters and we believe they will part for us, that we will walk through towards the Promised Land and together, hand in hand, we will build the world for which we long and dream and hope. 

For Weeks I’ve Been Bleeding Poems
Iris Eliya Cohen (Translated by Jonathan Paradise)

ֲאֲ ִנִי קֹוֵֵראת ַלַ ֹּקֶּבֶ ץ “ָָיגֹון”
מֹוֶחֶֶקֶ ת
קֹוֵֵראת לֹו “אֹוְק ְ טֹוֶּבּ ר”
ְמְ ַׁשָּׁנּה ְלְ “ִׁשׁ ְְבָָעה”
ַמַ ֲחֲ ִָלִיָפה ְלְ “ְּתּהֹום”
ְמְ ַׁשָּׁנּה: “ְּתּהֹומֹות”
קֹוֵֵראת לֹו “ִּכְּׁשׁאֹול”
קֹוֵֵראת לֹו “ִּת ְ ְּקָָוה”
מֹוָָרה ַַל ְַּמְּח ֵׁשׁב ֶׁׁשִּיְּזְ ֹּכּר
הּוא עֹו ֶנֶה ִלִי “ׁשֹוֵֵמר ֶאֶ ת ִּת ְ ְּקָָוה”

I name the file “sorrow”
I delete
Name it “October”
Change it to “7”
Replace it with “chasm”
Change: “chasms”
Name it “hell-like”
I name it “hope”
Command the computer to remember
It responds, “saving hope.”

May we all save hope 
Shabbat Shalom 

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