Sitting on the Keys: Passover Insights

This night, different from other nights.

Passover eve. My family is strolling along the tree-lined streets of Upper Forest Hill, Toronto. We look forward to joining relatives for the Passover Seder. The homes we pass are a sprawling testimony to . . .

. . . what?

Looking into the beautiful homes, around the china-laden tables, I see faces. Most of the faces appear radiant, reflecting magnificently off the Steuben glass and sterling silver tableware. Still, a sense of foreboding lurks. An impervious cloud seems to hover. Yes, it is a dark cloud which will never entirely dissipate until the arrival of Moshiach (the Messiah).

This cloud I sense does not speak, it only weeps. This cloud is enormous and has been shedding every Jewish tear from the beginning of time.

Tears and questions are often found together.

Why six million?

What of our brethren in Israel?

Why did he marry out of our faith?

Why does G‑d need her when she is still so young?

Why this? Why me?

. . . this crooked letter Y, the Rabbi sighs . . .

So much and so little has changed over the past three thousand years. Today we do not endure the tyranny of King Pharaoh or toil over pyramids in quicksand. Yet some—no, many—moments feel like contemporary Egypt.

Chassidic philosophy teaches us that while we are all prisoners, we sit on the keys.

Tonight, on this Holiday of Liberation, keys abound. They will be laid out upon the Passover table in full splendor.

We are all prisoners, but the keys to our freedom are within reach.

This master key, the Passover haggadah, speaks to me as only a haggadah can.

We begin with hope.

“. . . This year we are slaves; next year free men . . .”

And, as always, the questions follow.

“Why is this night different from other nights . . . on all other nights we . . . but on this night . . .”

Just as there are different kinds of questions, there are also different types of children (or people).

“The Torah speaks of four sons: one wise, and one wicked, and one simple, and one who does not know how to ask . . .”

And just as there are different types of children, there are also different answers or approaches to their respective questions.

“Reply . . . blunt his teeth . . . tell him . . . initiate him . . .”

And just as there existed redemption from slavery back then, we now joyously celebrate past, present and even future redemptions.

“In every generation a person is obligated to regard himself as if he had gone out of Egypt . . . Therefore we are obliged to thank praise, laud, glorify . . . the One who performed for our fathers and for all of us these miracles . . .”

And just as G‑d did not forget his children in Egypt, we implore (with) Him to remember us today.

“. . . out of the narrow confines I called to G‑d, G‑d answered me with abounding relief . . .”

And just as our people were liberated from Egypt, we beseech G‑d to liberate us once again with the complete and final redemption.

“Next year in Jerusalem!”

It is already well past midnight. I observe the moon shining triumphantly through the clouds as we return home. Windows are shuttered and house lights have been dimmed.

Still — if you look carefully, other windows and doors, some bolted for centuries — have swung wide open, to reveal a brilliant light . . . a G‑dly light revealed through hope, faith and heartfelt prayers for the ultimate redemption and rebuilding of the Third Temple.

As I climb the stairs to my home, I steal one last glance upwards at a winking star. Listening carefully, I hear it singing the Passover haggadah’s words just shared at our Passover Seder.

I am still not quite home, but I know I am well on my way.

Originally published on

About the Author
Chana holds an M.S. in Special Education. Her innovative poems, essays and lectures reflect two and a half decades of experience working with students of all ages and abilities. Chana's writing has been published on, as well as in The Canadian Jewish News, The Jewish Press, and AMI. As a longtime volunteer with the Friendship Circle, Chana was recognised by the Ontario Legislature for “bringing a smile to the faces of children with special needs.” Although Chana 's "heart is in the east" she currently lives with her with her family in Toronto.