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There is no unifying story for Passover this year



A family takes part in a Passover Seder meal. (Getty Images)

When my grandfather was alive, we not often noticed eye to eye. Our disagreements had been too quite a few to rely, they usually’d multiply at any time when we had been collectively. No setting was too sacred for us to forego our spats. Even the Passover Seder might grow to be the backdrop to our bickering — the Jewish equal of arguing across the Thanksgiving desk. However regardless of our variations of opinion, we all the time sat collectively on the similar desk. There was all the time room for each of us.

This 12 months, Jews around the globe have a good time Passover in a second of profound trauma and discord introduced on by the bloodbath on October seventh and the continued warfare and humanitarian disaster in Gaza. And there appear to be fewer chairs round our seder tables. Slightly than arguing vigorously collectively, we’re retreating from each other. Supporters of the warfare are retreating from those that oppose it, and vice versa. We now not sit collectively.

Matzo, yarmulkes and the creator’s Haggadah, on his eating room desk. (Courtesy Daniel Osborn)

Passover has all the time resonated with me due to its emphasis on peoplehood and values. It’s about an historical group that was cast by their shared expertise of wandering within the wilderness. And it’s about how this group obtained its legal guidelines within the strategy of wandering, legal guidelines that present a price system that ensures we stay justly and righteously.

However this 12 months, this sense of belonging to a unified individuals has been fractured. And that is leading to a realization that there isn’t a one definition of justice and righteousness. As an alternative, we’re separating into smaller tribes, every strident in our personal perception within the reality of our values.

On the Passover Seder, Jews learn the Haggadah, a ebook that recounts the story of the Exodus of the Israelites from Egypt. In current a long time, it’s grow to be modern to undertake completely different haggadot to swimsuit eclectic sensibilities. There are humanistic, atheistic, pluralistic, feminist, social justice, and a litany of different haggadot to select from. But, importantly, they every inform the identical story. The interpretations might change however the primary narrative stays the identical. All of them recount the burning bush and the ten plagues. Moses all the time elements the Pink Sea. Whether or not it’s the Rugrats Passover or “The New American Haggadah,” Jews have all the time advised variations on the identical story.

This Passover, six months right into a seemingly unrelenting saga of violence, there isn’t a unifying story that we collectively inform about our up to date scenario. As an alternative, there’s widespread divergence in how Jewish individuals view this disaster. The cohesion that Passover has offered Jews for millennia is at the moment strained in methods I can not bear in mind and can’t fathom. We’re telling completely different tales and talking completely different languages.

On the Passover Seder, the youngest on the desk asks 4 questions, all to study: How is that this evening completely different from all different nights? In recounting the story of the Exodus, these questions are, finally, answered by the tip of the night and the account is handed onto the following technology.

Round Passover tables this 12 months, it’s not simply the youngest who’re asking questions. The ache radiating out from Gaza and Israel, and the anger felt about this battle around the globe, demand that even the elders amongst us ask completely new units of moral questions. We should ask what it means to be secure, merciful, first rate and compassionate. The solutions aren’t so clear reduce and they won’t be discovered simply. However there isn’t a choice apart from to proceed asking.

This Passover, six months right into a seemingly unrelenting saga of violence, there isn’t a unifying story that we collectively inform about our up to date scenario.

At a Passover Seder, there’s a second when Jews open the door to their properties as a symbolic gesture of openness to those that wander and wish sanctuary. We provide our dwelling and our bounty to the stranger. This 12 months, too many doorways are closing. They’re closing not solely to the strangers of the world however to those that as soon as sat at our seder tables. I’ve heard numerous tales of friendships between Jews, Muslims and Arabs strained or ended. I’ve additionally seen intergenerational divisions widen amongst Jews, as mother and father and youngsters are pushed aside over their stances on the warfare. As Jews disagree over Israel’s conduct in Gaza, we have gotten strangers to one another.

Historically, the Seder ends with the pronouncement, “Subsequent 12 months in Jerusalem!” At instances within the lengthy arc of Jewish historical past, this assertion spoke to a deep craving. At different instances, it felt like a promise. For a lot of Jewish individuals, it was an announcement of hope.

“Subsequent 12 months in Jerusalem” rings in another way this 12 months. It’s extra somber. It’s somber for individuals who misplaced family members on October seventh, for whom their anguish drowns out the sentiment’s hope. It’s somber for individuals who are devastated by the continued struggling of Palestinians. It’s somber as a result of subsequent 12 months appears to this point off, unsure, and sure filled with extra violence. We’re making this pronouncement with fewer individuals at our tables and with much less goodwill and understanding.

When my grandfather and I argued at our seder desk, it was not all the time nice. In truth, it was usually painful. However we might argue as a result of we had been prepared to return collectively. That too many people are turning away from sitting collectively, even when solely to argue and disagree is unsustainable. It’s its personal tragedy in a second of untold tragedies.

I’ll finish my Seder, not with the acquainted chorus of “Subsequent 12 months in Jerusalem,” however “Subsequent 12 months, collectively once more.” In any other case, we’re left wandering.

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