Passover Mishmash

An elderly man in Miami calls his son in New York and says, “I hate to ruin your day, but I have to tell you that your mother and I are divorcing. Forty-five years of misery is enough.” “Dad, what are you talking about?” the son screams.

“We can’t stand the sight of each other any longer,” the old man says. “We’re sick of each other, and I’m sick of talking about this, so call your sister in Chicago and tell her,” and he hangs up the phone.

Frantic, the son calls his sister, who explodes on the phone. “No way are they getting divorced!” she shouts, “I’ll take care of this.” She calls her father immediately and screams at the old man, “You are NOT getting divorced! Don’t do a single thing until I get there. I’m calling my brother back! And we’ll both be there tomorrow. Until then, don’t do a thing. DO YOU HEAR ME?” and hangs up.

The old man turns to his wife and says, “Okay Honey, they’re coming for Passover and paying their own airfare.”

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A Passover Seder is the time for family members to reconnect…even if it is achieved through coercion. 🙂

There is a beautiful idea behind the age-old custom of a family Seder. Just as we suffered together as a family in the Egyptian slavery, so to are we to rejoice in freedom together.

The Seder is to be a celebration and an appreciation of our freedom. However, we are never to forget those harsh years of slavery, hence, the eating of the bitter herbs at the Seder table. The depth of this concept is not simply that we endured the plight of servitude. Through the grief we bonded into a family, and through the pain we became great.

A telling parable to demonstrate this concept: A shimmering diamond was once a dark coal. It emerges only through the extreme weight of many tons of the earth’s pressure. There is a cute saying: “The only difference between a diamond and a lump of coal is that the diamond handled the pressure very well.”

The slavery of the Jewish Nation in Egypt is the example in the Torah of pain and suffering. For two hundred and ten years the Jewish People were forced into a bitter servitude. They were beaten mercilessly, and their children murdered. Demoralization and torture seemed to last an eternity without reprieve.

The word for Egypt in Hebrew is Mitzraim. The root word is meitzar meaning to constrict/to squeeze. It is explained that under Egypt’s rule the Jewish People were choked physically and spiritually to the point of near obliteration.

However, like a diamond’s brilliance, the Jewish People’s radiance did not emerge in spite of the incredible pressure that was inflicted on them. It was specifically through the very depths of despair that the Jewish People surfaced with tremendous pride and glory. The verse describes Egypt as an “iron furnace” – a smoldering cauldron that refines precious metals and extracts impurities. In this apparent eternal abyss, a defeated people forged into the Am Segulah/a treasured Nation, becoming the example for all times of a triumphant rise to prominence.

King David says: “From the meitzar/squeezing did I call out to you Hashem”. It is precisely through the pain, grief and despair that the greatness of mankind emerges. Rabbi Menachem Mendle of Kotzk declared the positivity of adversity with this profound adage: “There is nothing more whole, than a broken heart.”

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There is a telling story about a poor woman that would venture every day to the well to fill up two buckets with water. Each hung on the end of a pole, as her shoulders supported the weight for the journey back. One of the pails was cracked and by the time the woman would arrive home, most of its contents were depleted.

One day the cracked bucket was overwhelmed with remorse. It cried out to the woman pleading for forgiveness for losing the water that she carried daily, with great effort. “I feel terrible. I am so sorry,” the bucket wept in shame. “I am broken and useless.”

The woman smiled and said, “Come, I want to show you something.” She took the bucket on the very route that they went on together for years. “Tell me,” she asked, “do you see a difference between the right and left side of the path?” The bucket looked around and responded, “On one side is only dirt and mud. However, on the other side is an endless row of beautiful flowers.” “Correct,” said the woman. “Allow me to explain. I always carry you on my left side. When I noticed that you were losing water I planted flower seeds along the entire left side of the route. It is you that has watered and has given life to all of these flowers! This once grueling walk is now a most delightful experience, thanks to you.

Perspective is everything. In life one may believe that he is broken and losing water, however, Hashem has planted flower seeds beneath his feet. One day he will look back and discover that in the very place that loss was seemingly experienced is precisely where an endless row of exquisite flowers flourishes.

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