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Do not go unbroken into this seder night

The world we carry with us into Pesach is one where a little Ukrainian girl crossed the border to safety with a guinea pig in her arms and nothing else
Courtesy of FBM Pictures
A broken Matzah. Courtesy of FBM Pictures.

Let us not walk into this seder night unbroken.

(How can we, when little children lie in open graves?)

No: Let us break the matzah, and hide it deep within us, and carry its jagged, open halves into the story. Let us remember our own brokenness, the places where the world throbs painfully, where it is incomplete, unhealed, unbearable, un-whole..

(A little Ukrainian girl crossed the border to safety with a guinea pig in her embrace and nothing else. I looked at her picture and thought – I, we, were unable to give this girl a world where she didn’t have to leave her home with nothing but her guinea pig. How can we bear this world of ours, where this little girl’s fate is the better outcome – where other children never made it to the border, where their small, still arms will never embrace anything or anyone again? This is the world we carry with us into Pesach. Let us not lie to ourselves: all is not well.)

Let us walk into the seder cracked, for every crack is                                                          an open question                                                                                                              cupped hands for the night’s tales to pour some insight into                                          an opportunity                                                                                                                            to learn.

Then let us say – This is the bread of destitution. Let us remember: our ancestors may have eaten this particular bread as slaves in Egypt, but our world still bears the weight of destitution and privation. The difference is that we are free to see this truth, and act.

Let us say – Anyone who is famished should come and eat. Let our open hearts and outstretched hands be like stiches and bridges. Let us pour some kindness into this world’s hurts.

Let us say – This year we are slaves, next year we will be free people. Let us free ourselves from anything that makes us small, apathetic, complacent; anything that stops us from responding to other people’s pain.

(A little Ukrainian girl crossed a border with a guinea pig in her embrace and someone was there to welcome her, to feed her – and her pet.)

Let us walk cracked through the questions (how is this night different? Can we make a difference? Can we make this world different, better, for all the nights to come?)

Let us walk cracked through the stories (the Egyptians made us bad by torturing us. In what ways does our world make us callous? How can we fight back?)

Let us walk cracked through the songs (praise be to God, but the praise is a mirror, held to our faces to ask – will we act? God stretched out His arms to raise us out of Egypt; will we stretch ourselves in turn, beyond our own comforts? Will we do what it takes to raise our world?)

The kids will find the broken matzah after the story and the meal, and we will eat it. We won’t eat anything after this jagged piece. We’ll end the seder with the taste of brokenness undiluted on our tongues, lest we forget it. And as we’ll sing of goats and cats and dogs, let us pray for an end to death.


A little Ukrainian girl crossed a border with a guinea pig in her embrace and the way she held it became, for a moment, the most important thing in the world. Bombs break homes, fire burns limbs, but nothing carved the tenderness and care out of this little girl’s arms. If we could hold each other with such care no child would ever have to cross a border with nothing but a guinea pig. But our hands aren’t free to hold each other when there’s a war to fight. One day Nation shall not take up Sword against Nation, right? One day we will be able to beat our swords into plows, right? And then we’ll and drop those too and just hold each other to our hearts with this girl’s tenderness. Right? But for now, a little girl has to carry the weight of our failure by crossing a border and the weight of our dreamed-off future in the way she holds her arms around her guinea pig. She is so very small to carry so, so much.

The least we can do is carry her with us – in our hearts, through our seder, into the way we live our lives.

About the Author
Rachel is a Jerusalem-born writer and speaker who's in love with her city's vibrant human scene. She writes about Judaism, parenting and life in Israel for the Times of Israel and Kveller, and explores storytelling in the bible as a teacher and on 929.
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