Why do we break the middle matza near the beginning of the seder? Perhaps, an odd question to ask in responding to a prompt about unity in our community. Yet, the cracking of the matzah is a reminder that, when we tell our story, we have to make sure we begin with acknowledging brokenness.
We can’t begin to be who we are as a community – as a Jewish community or as a society – without feeling for the places in which there are cracks. At the seder, this requirement is emphasized in the words we say following yachatz, the breaking of the matza: This is the bread of affliction…all who are hungry come and eat, all in need share this Passover.”
Passover is a time for sitting around the table with loved ones and being grateful for what we have, and it is also a time for making sure that we do not forget others who may fall through the cracks and that we commit to the needs of others, whether physical or otherwise. When we do break the matza, we put the bigger piece away to be hidden and, later, search for as the afikomen. So, indeed, we have the recovery of the broken part in mind. And not until we get there do we come to the end of the telling and open the door, not only for Elijah, but to see what comes next.
Unity then is made possible by making the space for connection, perceiving the brokenness that exists, and finding together that part that is hidden. After all, the Haggadah continues, “This year, we are still enslaved, next year we will be free.” May this Pesach usher in the time of wholeness and unity for which we strive and the joy of opening our doors to the whole community.
Michael Bernstein is the Rabbi of Congregation Gesher L’ Torah.