March 27, 2015 admin

Festival of welcoming

It’s in the air again this morning, the same sharp freshness which brings the daffodils out of the cold earth and opens the buds on the trees. It smells of the vigour of life, life which yearns for freedom, adventure, love.
I always think of Pesach as ‘the festival of spring’ and the long hand-sore process of scouring, scrubbing and dusting until not one crumb of leaven, no scab of encrusted chametz, remains on the most fat-spattered hob or the bottom-most, least-examined drawer, as in truth a festival of welcoming, a throwing open to the fresh new air of every inch of the kitchen and every cob-webbed cell of the brain. Yes, this crazy spring cleaning is definitely hard work, but let it be a joy-driven chore.
When it’s done, and the old oak-wood dining table and the new pine kitchen table smell of steam and wax, even an old life feels fresh and ready to recount its adventures once again. It’s time for the Haggadah, the Telling: tell us the story of freedom, the story of ‘Tell old Pharaoh “Let my people go!” the story in which are included all the struggles against tyranny, cruelty, injustice and moral ignorance that ever have been and shall be, because it’s the story of how God calls out to liberty and goodness within every heart, even in the heart of hearts of the most recalcitrant, with signs and wonders which are often as simple as the straw in the beak of a nest-building bird and the new leaves on the trees.
Slavery, says the story, is not the last word; persecution is not the final act; hatred is not the heart’s desire; cruelty is not what the conscience wills. It is not these which make the earth in spring smell sweet and the souls of children sing.
On this journey we are driven by a great force of life. It is this force which in the nineteen-thirties and forties carried the vision of our people beyond the murders and death trains and gas ovens of Nazi Europe to the founding of a new land with the same indomitable vitality as animated the prophets when they spoke of how the children would return to their borders, the ruined places would be rebuilt and war be learnt no more. It is this spirit which made my father’s uncle Alfred write from Jerusalem to his brother in New York in 1943 congratulating him on the birth of a baby daughter and for being the ‘only one in the family to think of the future’, and which led him to take up pen again to say joyfully in the spring of 1945 that ‘right now the entire country is in flower’.
One day, if we listen to it, that spirit and energy could lead us all, even those who now see each other as enemies, to liberty and safety. That hope is at the heart of the Jewish faith, and all true faith.
This is the journey on which we must try to guide one another, whoever we are, leaving nobody behind. When we travel it, although we do so for ourselves, we never do so for ourselves alone but for each other and for everything that lives:
        In me are people without names,
        Children, stay-at-homes, trees.
        I am conquered by them all
        And this is my only victory.  (Boris Pasternak)

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