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  • Writer's pictureRabba Sara Hurwitz

Perspective

“How do you live with existential fear of death?” This was the question that several of my students asked me when checking in with each of them after Iran launched hundreds of missiles into Israel. 


This year, more than ever, the words from the haggadah resonate: 


אֶלָּא שֶׁבְּכָל דּוֹר וָדוֹר עוֹמְדִים עָלֵינוּ לְכַלוֹתֵנוּ, 

in every single generation people rise up to destroy us


And then we declare, with deep faith: 


וְהַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא מַצִּילֵנוּ מִיָּדָם.

but the Holy One, Blessed be the One, who saves us from their hands.


Perhaps, the emphasis on בְּכָל דּוֹר וָדוֹר, that in every generation the Jewish people had enemies, gives us the perspective we need this Pesach.  


In fact, even before God created humans, God’s angels attempted to annihilate us. The Gemara in Sanhedrin 38b, records a conversation with the angels:  


רְצוֹנְכֶם נַעֲשֶׂה אָדָם בְּצַלְמֵנוּ 

Do you agree that we should make humans in Our image?


The angels responded by asking God: “what will the deeds of humans be?” God showed them the history of humankind, and the angels, in shock, asked “These are the creatures you want to bring into this world?” Despite several angels trying to talk God out of creating, God persisted and created humans.


The midrash continues with the angels continuing to question God’s choice, pointing to human’s destructive nature, as well as inevitable suffering that they would encounter.  But God responds with a promise:   


וְעַד זִקְנָה אֲנִי הוּא וְעַד שֵׂיבָה אֲנִי אֶסְבֹּל. אֲנִ֤י עָשִׂ֙יתִי֙ וַאֲנִ֣י אֶשָּׂ֔א וַאֲנִ֥י אֶסְבֹּ֖ל וַאֲמַלֵּֽט׃

 Even as you grow old, I will not change, When you turn gray, it is I who will carry you;  I am the Maker, and I will be the Bearer; And I will carry and rescue [you] Yishiyahu

 (Is. 46:4). 


Despite the afflictions and dangers we would suffer, God embeds the value of perspective into our souls. God saw the full history of humankind, and understood that in every generation there would be hardships, devastation and even sin. The words of בְּכָל דּוֹר וָדוֹר עוֹמְדִים עָלֵינוּ לְכַלוֹתֵנוּ, in every single generation people rise up to destroy us, rings truer than ever.  But God also understood that with those hardships would come love and joy and creativity. And that as long as God created, and then humans keep creating, the world will keep on turning. And so we also declare, in our next breath: וְהַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא מַצִּילֵנוּ מִיָּדָם, but the Holy One, Blessed be the One, who saves us from their hands.


The very essence of Pesach is to hold these multiple truths. It is to embrace the lechem oni, the poor person’s bread, as a symbol of hardships and then we break that matzah to re-enact the brokenness of our world.  We don’t even have to add any other symbols to our seder plate to embody the maror, the bitterness that so many of us are naturally feeling this year. And still, we gather. We sing Hallel and praise God. We sit at the table filled with the reality that we do not know what the future will bring.


Somehow we garner the perspective that God had when creating humans. There has always been devastation and it is inevitable that there will be future hardships as well. And yet, God chose to create, so too must we commit to do the same. Despite a pervasive existential threat, this is the perspective I need to keep moving forward, with the knowledge that the Jewish people will thrive.




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