The profound message of the broken matzah

Passover by all accounts is the greatest of family holidays. It is all about the majestic Seder table, the food, and the traditions, but most of all, it is about our family that surrounds us and celebrates with us a tradition that runs over two millennia. Divorce raises many challenges for people. In daily life, socially, and beyond but perhaps of all the difficulty, supreme among them is the pain of sitting down at the Seder table without your children by your side. It’s a reality that any single parent can relate to. It is part of the fabric that makes up the “divorced home” but it is a tear in the heart that for me, cannot easily be mended.

The way this year comes out, I will not have the privilege of spending the Yom Tov with my children. It’s mom’s turn and while I am fully supportive of their time with mom, that does not mitigate at all the empty feeling in my heart.

So this morning, as my little boy left for the holiday, he asked me to give him a bracha. It was difficult for me to hold back the tears and emotion as I was benching him. First, of course I wished him a beautiful Yom Tov and told him that his mission for the next ten days was to have the best time ever. I told him, “When you sit at the Seder even though you are young, you are the leader and I know that you will make me proud with the Divrey Torah and stories that you will share.” Then I added a thought which I told him I hope he will keep with him for the rest of his life.

One of the unsung highlights of the Seder is Yachatz, it is that memorable point right at the beginning where we take that perfect, wholesome matzah and split it in half deliberately with great pomp and circumstance. Have you ever wondered why we do this? Think of every other holiday, it is all about perfection. You buy an esrog, it has to be perfect and unblemished. You buy a lulav, it has to be tall, straight, and aligned. You light the Hannukah candles, it should be of the best and purest oils. And so with every one of our traditions, we always seek the best, the most perfect, and the most beautiful. Yet on this Seder night, we deliberately celebrate the imperfection, the broken, and the divided. In fact, to such a degree, that one half gets put away for the all important Afikoman. There is a deep and profound message in this symbolic gesture. To the world what is broken is bad and needs to be fixed but in G-d’s eyes, what is broken is most often what is most beautiful and most close to Him.

So I told him, when you split the matzah at the Seder, one side has your heart in it and one side has mine. The fact that we may be separated by zip code does not ever mean that we are separated in spirit. Ultimately, it is about seeing the glass half full. That is the message and deep symbolism of this holiday.

I don’t know how much of my message my little boy will remember but as I left home this morning, he ran after me and told me, “Daddy when I split the matzah at the Seder, I will kiss one side and put it in my pocket and this way I will carry you with me.” How could I even respond to that?
May this holiday be one of blessing and fulfillment for each one of us but most of all, may we see the ultimate unification of the matzah and G-d’s healing and blessing to our collective broken hearts.

About the Author
Cantor Benny Rogosnitzky serves as Cantor of the prestigious Park East Synagogue on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. Cantor Benny has lectured widely on Cantorial music and its application to prayer. He has taught and guided many of today's well-known cantors. He is involved at the leadership level in many charitable organizations with a unique flair for organization and implementation of community projects. Cantor Benny is one of the founders of Frum Divorce, a community-support organization, dedicated to supporting members of the religious community, who are going through the divorce process, with a specific focus on parenting and guidance on how to deal with the emotional fallout of separation and divorce.
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