The words “Breaking News” used to mean that something big and unexpected just happened. Something worth interrupting life to listen to. Now, every single news story begins with “Breaking” — whether the revelation of a new scandal or just an upcoming interview rehashing what is already well known.
Obviously that means that most of the time “Breaking News” is meaningless to say. Our world has become simultaneously in need of repair and numb to its brokenness.
At the Seder, before we even begin telling the story of Passover, we split the middle matza, and the sound of it breaking calls us to attention: the following story is Breaking News.
The great singer and poet Leonard Cohen said “Ring the bells that still can ring, forget your perfect offering, there is a crack, a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.” So too does the Passover Seder teach that the road to freedom runs through breaking as well as repairing.
Only then can we invite in those who are hungry for food or for meaning to join our conversation. This invitation breaks our routine, the boundaries we set around our table. We begin to notice and question, breaking our assumptions of what we think we already know. And then we begin to tell the story of our hardships and oppression under Pharaoh, breaking open our hearts and souls to new ways to let the light of freedom shine through.
The festive meal ends with a return to the broken matzah, the afikomen, that waits hidden until we have partaken of the rest of our feast and realized the breaking news: We are free!
Rabbi Michael Bernstein is the spiritual leader of Congregation Gesher L’ Torah. He is a member of the advisory committee of SOJOURN, a frequent participant on interfaith panels, and member of the Martin Luther King Jr. International Board of Preachers.