Getting to the Other Side
I recently officiated at the wedding of a congregant’s daughter. The couple is sweet and had a beautiful story of how they met and of the life that they were looking to create together.
She loves his humor, his drive, and that he was truly a kind human being who would do anything to make her happy. And he loves her smile, that she is down to earth, kind, willing to do anything for anybody, is really driven, and full of love. It seems to be the love story that many people tell about finding the one whom our soul delights.
But there is more to this story. Her grandfather, who survived the Auschwitz concentration camp, was sitting in the front row watching his granddaughter get married.
You could see the big smile on his face and tears in his eyes as she said the words that would unite her life with her beloved: “Harei atah mikudash li,” by this ring you are sanctified to me by the laws of Moses and Israel. He mentioned to me as we were signing the ketubah how proud he was of her and that he knew she was the keeper of his story and that his legacy was secure. As we were lining up for the processional, she whispered in his ear, “I love you, Papa.”
Passover is the epitome of the freedom story. We are required to tell the story from slavery to freedom. The Maggid section, telling the story, is critical to the seder itself. But the Mishnah teaches us something so important, so life transforming and validating. We must tell the story from “Disgrace to Glory.” Why? the Mishnah asks.
Because then, and only then, can we really understand and feel the power of freedom and offer deep gratitude for the freedom we experience today.
The moment was not lost on me. Watching Papa watch his granddaughter get married to someone in whom her soul delights not only gave him great nachas, pride, but it also filled his heart with gratitude for being able to experience the moment.
The joy and blessing of the moment meant that much more to him knowing what he had to endure. Pain and suffering come in many forms, and all one needs to do is look within to be reminded of the scars we all bear. Passover reminds us that we all have pain within, but going from “disgrace to glory” is what the Passover story is about.
This year, let us acknowledge the pain and offer praise to God for the glory. Then, and only then, can we truly experience what it meant to be slaves in Egypt and be redeemed.
A Zissen Pesach to all.
Larry Sernovitz is senior rabbi at Temple Kol Emeth.