Hi, everyone! Nice to be back. I apologize to anyone who was wondering whether this blog was still alive. The answer is a resounding YES! One of the disadvantages of such a long break, of course, is that far too much has happened to tell it all in a single post, so the various events may need to spill out in pieces.
First on the agenda is to wish everyone a joyous Passover! I hope all of your Seders were rich with stories and the surprises that always occur whenever the order of things is gently, or not so gently, disrupted. Are any two Seders ever the same—even in the same company? Mine never are. Perhaps this is because Pesach represents the very essence of freedom. Despite the fact that the word Seder means "order," no two are ever alike.
I will always remember the family Seder that took place when I was about eight or nine years old. My father and grandfather began to argue quite loudly about how the Red Sea, as we called it then, actually parted. This discussion must have been after the meal, because I remember my father and grandfather pacing around the room and gesturing as they spoke. My father, who was an attorney and devoted to logic, surmised that there must have been a freak storm of some kind, perhaps a sudden change in barometric pressure combined with high winds or low tide, or both, to cause the waters to part. Grandpa, a scholar and mystic, born in Kiev and a student of Kabbalah, listened to his grown son's argument and responded, simply, "It was a miracle." They went back and forth like this for quite a while, both equally firm in their convictions and unpersuaded by the other, as I watched and listened, fascinated by the dialogue.
I'm not sure if I thought about it then, but it seems clear to me now that both of them were probably correct. If the Sea of Reeds, as we now understand the place to be, did allow any crossing at all, it might have been possible to explain the event within the laws of nature. But still, for this "freak of nature" to occur at just the moment that we were about to escape from slavery to freedom would surely have been a miracle in itself. No conflict there!
On April 19 this year, Fanny Neuda’s prayer “On the First Days of Passover” was sent out to about 35,000 readers as part of the Knopf Poetry Newsletter "poem-a-day" project, along with a nice explanation of the relationship of poetry and prayer. Fanny's second prayer for the holiday, “On the Last Days of Passover,” contains verses that beautifully resolve the conversation between the two positions that my father and grandfather held and elevate the discussion even further:
The time of visible, manifest wonders
May have long passed. Nature may no longer
Step off its track on our behalf.
Yet your eternal might, my God, still surrounds us.
Your miraculous power still works,
Silently and invisibly, to assist us.
Natures’s factories remain in perpetual operation
To produce everything that aids and benefits us.
When we—pursued, oppressed, or lost—seek escape,
You still show us the path of our redemption,
The path of rescue and hope.
Sometimes it is a faithful friend
Who helps and counsels us;
Sometimes it is the inner voice of the heart,
The angel of God within us, who guides us,
Safe and unharmed, across the sea of life,
Over waves where you, O God, reign
And where billowing surf alternately rages and subsides
According to your almighty will.
Therefore rejoice, O my soul, in the Source of Being
And continue onward in faith and humility
When life’s sky turns cloudy
And when the ground beneath your feet
Threatens to give way, don’t lose heart.
Don’t falter in your trust in God.
The Eternal One will come to your aid at the right time.
For all our help comes from the Eternal One.
And now here’s this: When I started this blog tonight, I decided to consult my Haggadah to decide how to title it, and I found these words, “Therefore, let us rejoice.” How perfect, I thought, without yet knowing what I would write—without yet having decided that I would be including this part of this prayer from my book, and without even knowing until typing it just now, that this prayer contained the words, “Therefore rejoice, O my soul.”
Therefore, let us all rejoice in the miracles that surround us daily. Enjoy the rest of your Passover, every unleavened crumb of it, with Love!