Meditation on kindling the festival lights:
Closing our eyes, we recall the darkness in the world – hunger, disease, poverty, loneliness, and war – and the human causes for this darkness: greed, envy, hatred, and fear.
We quietly resolve to take the gratefulness we feel at the moment – gratefulness for life, for health, for sustenance, for the love of family and friends, for our home, for the peace we enjoy, for our freedom – and translate these gifts into offerings of chessed, of compassionate generosity, so that our light will bring a ray of hope in the darkness of others.
Gratitude for order
The highlight of Passover is the Seder – the meal of remembrance, fellowship and enhanced awareness of the Divine.
Seder, meaning “order,” is a term that taps into the depth of the human psyche and its awareness is itself reason for gratefulness. Without the notion of order, our physical and psychic worlds would dissolve into places of chaos and terror. As the human mind proceeds to discover dimensions of order in physical space – natural changes in the seasons, the ebb and flow of the oceans’ tides, laws of gravity and magnetism that maintain the sensitive equilibrium of earth and the planets around us, the cycles of birth, life, decay and death, laws of cause and effect – all phenomena that lend some predictability to the complexity of the cosmos, we cannot help but feel only grateful wonder for the marvelous fragility of human existence.
Consider the mechanisms of the mind. Perhaps the most basic definition of psychosis, of human insanity, is inextricably connected to the experience of psychological chaos and disorder. Imagine the inability to perceive the world around you in terms that are predictable and understandable; we can barely conceive of the sheer panic of psychic isolation and its utter confusion.
It is the awareness of order that renders us sane, confident, even happy. One can succinctly say: “I am, therefore I thank!”
On Yachatz, breaking the middle matza:
Judaism does not insist on perfection. In all of Jewish sacred texts, nowhere do we come across the divine demand: Thou shalt be perfect.
Recognizing that perfection belongs exclusively to God, pursuing it would be construed as an act of hubris. Judaism did, however, hold out the expectation that we strive for holiness, to emulate GodÊ¼s deeds of compassion and justice, but never to entertain the prospect of becoming God.
Human life is incomplete, imperfect, in a state of fragmentation and brokenness.
We break the matzah, putting one part aside and hiding it for later, with the knowledge that the divided piece will suffice for our current celebration.
Wholeness, perfection, the ideal, is something hidden, “zafun” – as yet undiscovered. The ultimate transcends our awareness; all we can do is imagine and reach for that which we conceive of as God – the Source of perfection, unity, “Shalom.”
To engage in the journey toward greater God consciousness, we can only break up the wholeness of life into understandable segments, partialize reality and grasp, if blessed, only momentary glimpses of God. The matzah over which we conduct our seder is a broken matzah, “lechem oni,” the food of humans whose mortality and creatureliness render us insignificant, almost desperate in our search for the divine. It is poor man’s bread, as we emerge spiritually impoverished, a faulty facsimile of GodÊ¼s Image and likeness.
Yet, it is precisely by way of a broken heart that we arrive at an awareness of greater proximity to God. Can we pray when feeling smug about life, perfect and complacent?
The mature heart is not perfectionist; it rests in the compassion of our being instead of the ideals of the mind. Before we seek the piece that fits the puzzle of our bewilderment, and restore the hidden piece to our fuller awareness and knowledge of God, we bless, praise God for the partiality of life, and discover gratefulness in every bite of this bread of affliction.
We are left with the shattered pieces of our lives, with the fragments of our history as a people still struggling to unify GodÊ¼s name in this world. What remains as we continue our ritual is the broken matzah, and the story of lives, unleavened and incomplete.