Thoughts & Teachings

Rabbi Deborah Wechsler

Life is lived in stages.  In as much as we experience moments and days, we live within stages.  Experiences are categorized according to when they are lived.  Milestones mark the beginnings and endings of these stages, but then we live within them, each with their special character that colors our memories of them.

Our Jewish life is no different.  With milestones marking significant moments, both our lives and our years are divided into stages of living, each complete with their own character and feeling, each transitioning one to another, almost seamlessly.   Two weeks ago at the Passover Seder, after we told the story of the Exodus, we detailed some of the transformations that occurred.  We spoke of God taking us out: from slavery to freedom, from despair to joy, from mourning to celebration, from darkness to radiance, from ensalvement to redemption.  And the Hagaddah teaches us that the appropriate reaction to these transformations is to give thanks and sing a new song before God.

But our extraordinary joy at redemption is short lived.  From the moment that Pesach is over we begin to anticipate the devastating sadness that is Yom Hashoah.  Coming less than a week after the 8th day of Pesach, the day set aside to remember the Holocaust immediately enters our consciousness.  It is a sobering place to be, the taste of the matzah - bread of our freedom, still on our lips, as we mourn the ashes of our people.       

It is at the Seder itself that we began to live bein geulah le shoah, between redemption and destruction.  A stage that is all too familiar to the Jewish people.  Sunday was Yom Hashaoah and with it, this profound but fleeting stage came to an end.  It was replaced by a new stage of Jewish life, time that is bein shoah le tekumah, between destruction and establishment, between the ashes of the Holocaust to the establishment of the State of Israel just one week later. This too is a distinct period in our calendar, of watching a phoenix rise from the ashes, of another journey towards national redemption.  As a liminal moment, a moment that is lived on the threshold, it is pregnant with possibility and hope.