In the Chassidic tradition the eating of matza at the seder is a meditative act. So on Monday night as I reclined to the left to begin to slowly chew the hand-made shmura matza that our family had baked just a few hours earlier, I closed my eyes and tried to experience the matza with all of my senses.
As I tasted the lovely taste of that simplest and yet holiest of foods, a phrase began to repeat itself in my mind; taam shel cherut (“taste of freedom”). As I continued to chew the words taam shel cherut resonated through my head like a mantra and then a dramatic picture began to form in my mind’s eye. It was a photograph that I know well, a copy of it hangs in my study. It is the famous picture of Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel marching with Martin Luther King Jr. and other civil rights leaders from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama in March 1965. Heschel would later describe that experience as one in which he felt that his feet were praying. I guess that for me, growing up in America in the 1960s, that picture captures the struggle for freedom and the Jewish commitment to that freedom, more than any other.
And then, as I contemplated that inspiring scene, another historical detail popped into my head: Martin Luther King had been invited to participate in Rabbi Heschel’s Pesach Seder in the spring of 1968. However that invitation was never actualized, as King was assassinated in Memphis less than two weeks before the seder took place. (Heschel himself died unexpectedly in 1972. According to his family his death was hastened by a broken heart caused by the Vietnam War that he had struggled to end).
I emerged from my meditative state to find myself crying. The fervent prayer that all people should be completely free (in this context we also mentioned and prayed for Jonathan Pollard at our seder), was deep within our hearts. Therefore as we continue this festival of freedom in the month of redemption we continue to pray for complete salvation and deliverance for all of humanity. In the words of Rav Kook zt”l, “Israel’s leaving from Egypt will remain forever the springtime of the entire world.” Chag Sameach.