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Hope Isn’t Canceled

04/07/2020 12:11:17 PM


Rabbi Ron Segal

A brief story entitled Not By Bread Alone is found in the Haggadah “A Different Night” (Noam Zion and David Dishon). In the spring of 1945, a father and his teenage son shared the hard labor in a Nazi camp. The father suggested a pact between them to save part of what little bread they received. After several days of saving the father reported to his son sheepishly: “I am sorry but I have given away our whole store of bread to a new arrival.” “Why?” asked the son in desperation. The father explained, “There are two reasons: first, he needed food even more than we and second, I exchanged the bread for a miniature haggadah.” Several days later using this haggadah, the father was able to raise people’s spirits by conducting a seder for many inmates. Even though matzah was unavailable, the seder gave everyone a special kind of nourishment – hope.

This story grabbed my attention with particular intensity while preparing for Passover this year. Though certainly not subjected to harsh labor and persecution, this year’s Passover is surely unlike one we have ever known. Isolated, prevented from physically assembling with loved ones and friends, and likely unable to acquire or enjoy many of the traditional foods and rituals of the holiday, feelings of despair could understandably threaten at times. In a column published in eJewish Philanthropy this week, Rabbi Julie Roth shared  the sense of overwhelm she was experiencing due to the loss of college and high school graduation ceremonies, having to conduct shiva minyans via Zoom, the need to postpone wedding ceremonies and b’nei mitzvah, and concerns about summer internships, and empty streets and parks and schools, when she happened to see a large outdoor sign with the words written in all caps HOPE ISN’T CANCELED. The words helped refocus her attitude and spirit, serving as a timely reminder that, ultimately, this is the message of Passover.

Indeed, hope has sustained us during the darkest periods in our people’s history, and it can most assuredly can do so now. Further, we should understand that it is our obligation to help those who are struggling to find and hold onto hope as well. When we consider the growing number of people who are losing their jobs as well as those already wrestling with financial insecurity during this precarious time, we surely recognize that there are things we can do to help bring a sense of much-needed hope for those who are struggling. Consider, for example, what a difference compassionate outreach and acts of tzedakah might make, how this mitzvah could help to remind others as well that hope isn’t canceled!

Thursday evening begins a period known as Sefirat haOmer - the 49 days of “counting the Omer” that culminate with the holiday of Shavuot. Throughout each of these seven weeks, we are invited to reflect and act upon an essential value in Jewish life. During this first week, may opportunities to restore hope through our personal acts of tzedakah help add meaning and spiritual depth to our own observance of Passover and the personal ritual of counting. Wishing you a hopeful and joyful Chag Sameach!

Mon, August 3 2020 13 Av 5780