It was the best of times. It was the worst of times.

It was the best of times. It was the worst of times. It is erev Pesach 5780.

Rather than welcome in generations of family from around the world, tonight we will sit at our regular table.

Rather than listen to guests share their stories alongside our own, tonight we will carry the woven fabric of many stories together and bring them to life through one mouth.

Rather than imagine the bitterness of slavery and plagues, tonight we will mourn the many lives stricken over the last weeks.

Rather than jokes of cleaning exhaustion, tonight we have realigned our focus on the fundamental messages of the holiday.

Rather than imagine the courage of slaves who believed and led us on a path to salvation, tonight we bear witness to heroic gestures before us at every turn.

We have learned the shopping and medicine lists of complete strangers and that it is ok to reach out for help ourselves, because we are all vulnerable and in need. We are redefining our sense of community as people ‘appear’ with gestures large and small to touch the lives of others. We are forging new skills to manage stress existential, financial and physical through worldwide-connections sharing skills and passions. We are reading emotions through the slight expressions of eyes on faces otherwise visually obscured. This time has granted us permission to reshuffle and dedicate our focus connecting to the people we value most and carve out space for our priorities. We haven’t traveled the world, but we have discovered the nature at our doorstep with a new sense of wonder and appreciation.

This Pesach will not only be one to remember, but it will be one that transforms what celebrating the holiday means to us from now on.

In the shadows of the destruction of the Temple our sages struggled with maintaining the holiday as the main course of the seder meal, the pascal offering was glaringly absent. Their choice to embrace the paradox of longing for what is missing and celebrating that which remains established a Pesach paradigm for us ever since. Throughout the generations, our nation continued to celebrate each seder night folding in the sensitivities, challenges and joys of that moment of history. The story of the exodus is not a historical recounting, it is the story of our lives. On the seder night the Mishna challenges each of us ‘to see ourselves’ within the story. Because that closeness, that bitterness, that vulnerability, that salvation, that song of liberation is our story still today.

With a sensitivity to the introductory word אז- then which opens the ‘Song of the Sea’ , the midrash suggests that until this moment no one in human history responded to the miracles around them with the all-encompassing spirit of song. The midrash highlights the power of this moment in Jewish history, not only as the time we were born as a nation, not only as the moment where God fulfilled his covenantal promise to the children of Avraham to begin our journey to Israel, but also as the moment where humanity discovered our voice to sing to God. At the splitting of the sea we found our voice and brought it’s prototype to the world.

Today’s page of Talmud, learned by thousands around the world studying daf yomi ends with an additional suggestion for us in response to experiencing miracles. The Talmud reminds us to take responsibility to develop the world around us.

With awe and excitement to internalize this year’s lessons and travel together this evening.

Wishing you and your family good health and a joyous Pesach,

Ilana

PS – Here’s a link www.moed.org.il/bring-yourself-to-the-seder to Moed’s Seder preparation, available in English, Hebrew and French

About the Author
Ilana Fodiman-Silverman is passionate about people, Jewish text and creative expression. She is the Director of Moed in Zichron Yaakov, Israel bringing together secular and religious Israelis to study and act.
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