Dear Am HaYam Family,
Simchah rabbah, simchah rabba, aviv hi-gia Pesach ba!
“Oh great joy, oh great joy, spring has arrived and Passover is coming!” This is the opening of an Israeli Passover song.
When people teach about Passover, particularly to children, we teach that the holiday was named this way because the Angel of Death “passed over” and “protected” or spared their firstborn children. Yet the Hebrew word for Passover, “Pesach,” also refers to the paschal offering. In the Passover story, the blood of this sacrifice was smeared on the doorposts as a marker to obviate the Angel of Death. That sacrifice is represented on our seder plate in the form of a shankbone, z’roa.
This idea of sacrifice is a perfect representation of this year’s Pesach holiday. In the Exodus story, the Israelites made the paschal sacrifice, and they reaped a reward: freedom!
We too have been sacrificing these last several years. We were not true slaves, but we were definitely in a narrow place (Mitzrayim): isolation!
This year, our sacrifice has paid off, and because of people’s adherence to the protocols, and the time we bought for scientists and doctors to find a treatment for COVID, we are free! We are having a seder at Am HaYam this year for the first time in three years.
Is there still danger of COVID? Absolutely! We must stay responsible, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t celebrate our freedom. Similarly, when the Israelites left Egypt, they were not yet out of the woods. They wandered the desert for 40 years, and they still encountered many hardships. But at least they were no longer in Egypt.
That didn’t stop them from complaining several times (particularly in Exodus 15-17), immediately following their escape from Egypt.
At the Passover seder we say “Dayeinu,” it’s enough for us. G!d did so much for us, and any of it by itself should have been sufficient, but we got so much more.
I do not think the Israelites understood the meaning of ‘Dayeinu,” for it seemed the miracle at the Sea of Reeds was not enough for them. Having a double portion of manna on Shabbat was not enough for them. Getting the Torah at Mt. Sinai was not enough for them. And we were lucky enough to get even more, and so Dayeinu ends up having so many verses that we do not even always sing them all.
It is definitely fair to acknowledge that things are not perfect, and it is certainly acceptable to call upon G!d and express our hope that things become better. We also have an obligation to be a part of that process ourselves.
But while it is healthy to acknowledge the negative reality for a moment, we don’t want to dwell on it. We want to focus on acknowledging the positive (Hakarat Hatov). Even in bad times, we usually realize that we have had it far worse, and that is a positive! And certainly today, when many of us are congregating in person, it is a positive thing.
Is there still work to be done, yes! But for now, “Dayeinu!” It should be enough for us. Let’s enjoy this moment of freedom. Let’s set aside these eight days and turn them into a celebration of what we’ve emerged from over the last few years.
Ma tov chelkeinu! How good is our portion in life! Particularly today, at this moment of freedom, z’man cheiruteinu!
Baruch Ata A-d-nai E-l-hei-nu melech ha-olam she-a-sa-ni ben/bat cho-rin.
Blessed are you, HaShem our G!d, Sovereign of the universe, who made me free.
On behalf of Rabbi Sacks and our CAH leadership team, chag samei-ach v’chasher, I wish you a liberating, joyful, and meaningful Passover holiday!
Student Rabbi Maayan Lev