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This past Monday, I was one of the millions of people who traveled from their homes to see the total eclipse of the sun. My vantage point was a park in Austin, Texas, where we worried the overcast skies would block our view. And suddenly, as if doing a perfect imitation of the Red Sea, the clouds parted at exactly the right moment to reveal a wondrous scene.

We watched as the moon moved slowly into position and were reminded once again of the Passover story as darkness fell all around us. The totality that followed was incredible to witness, especially the flares shooting from the corona of the Sun. The breathtaking moment lasted only minutes but was an awe-inspiring experience I will always cherish.

With Passover only a few days away, I am hardly alone in thinking about the upcoming holiday. So, too, is the chair of the Global Jewry Executive Committee, Richard Levin. We appreciate his sharing some of those thoughts with us in this week’s GJ Connections.

Shabbat shalom and may this be the week the hostages return home.

– Sandy Cardin

During our Passover seder this year, we will be upholding the ancient tradition of breaking the middle of three matzot on our seder table. This year, this ritual may have even greater meaning.

As with most Jewish traditions, there are many explanations for why we engage in them. For example, why do we break the middle matzah at all? One interpretation is that it visibly represents the division between oppression and freedom, or between the exile and redemption of the Jewish people. By breaking the matzah, we acknowledge the division between the past and the present, between slavery and liberation.

When we break the middle matzah, the larger piece of the broken matzah, known as the afikoman, is tidily wrapped and hidden for the youngest participants at the seder table to find after dinner. After it’s found, the afikoman is joyfully shared as “dessert”, following a sumptuous meal. Consistent with the theme of Global Jewry, one might say that eating the afikoman – once a broken part of the middle matzah – emphasizes unity, because everyone at the table takes a piece of the broken matzah. We share that experience together, while the children (our future) engage in the playful process of finding the matzah and perhaps receive a gift for doing so.

This taps into the bigger theme at this year’s seder: breaking the middle matzah is a symbol of how broken our world is, and how broken our hearts are. With war in Israel and Ukraine and deep divisions within many countries frequently leading to anti-Semitism, we can’t help but feel broken and sad, and we feel compelled to talk about our suffering during the seder. And, at the very same seder, we will be experiencing joy as we share the afikoman in unity and sing the familiar and playful tunes that remind us of seders past.

Overall, the breaking of the middle matzah is a symbolic and meaningful ritual that connects us to the historical narrative of the Jewish people’s journey from slavery to freedom, while also emphasizing themes of unity, remembrance, and redemption. Yes, this year it will be possible to have a seder that simultaneously represents sadness, hope, tikkun olam, and even joy.

Shabbat Shalom.

– Dr. Richard Levin, Chair of Global Jewry’s Executive Committee

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