This is going to be a very different kind of Passover. For many of us, because of the coronavirus, we will not be physically with our families and good friends. Many of us will experience the Seder “virtually,” and we will try our best to retell the ancient story of how our ancestors were delivered from slavery to freedom.
Whether in person or virtually, near the beginning of the Seder we will take a piece of matza and break it into two uneven parts. The larger piece, called the afikoman, we hide with the expectation that a child will bring it back to the leader of the Seder for a reward. And the smaller piece: we hold it up in the air and declare: “This is the bread of affliction. Let all who are hungry come and eat!” We hold up, not a whole piece of matza, but a broken piece, as if to recognize that at this trying time there is much brokenness in our world. There is a rapidly spreading virus that threatens us all. There is the brokenness of hunger and homelessness and poverty. There is the brokenness that is the oppression under which many people of our world live, unable to enjoy the opportunities of freedom.
Yes, we begin to tell the Passover story with a broken piece of matza. For no matter how long our Seder, our Passover is not complete and whole.
But something very telling happens with that broken piece of matza. Later in the Seder, after the meal, we send a child to find the Afikoman—the other piece of the broken matza. And is it just a game that we play with our children to keep them interested and engaged? Or might there be some profound meaning here?
Far more than a broken piece of matza, I would contend that what the child brings back is our hope for wholeness. The two broken pieces of matza are brought together, even as we hope for the time when we will have fixed the brokenness of our world, and perhaps the brokenness that we know in our own lives. And significant, that we realize that it is through our children that we envision such a better time.
Wherever you may be during this Passover, may this be a time when we are especially grateful for all our blessings. And may it be that we relearn the message of Passover: That we see and reach beyond ourselves, and that we rise up together with the hope that we will yet know wholeness in our lives, in our society, and in our world.
I wish you Shabbat Shalom and a meaningful Passover in this extraordinary time. May this be a time for proudly embracing the noble ideals that are this precious heritage.