Like these flowers, every human is slightly different. Each one of us unique in our attributes, and every person is a singular being sharing space on this precious planet called Earth. Like these flowers, we have the potential to bring beauty and pleasure into the lives of others. Like these flowers, we will one day fade and be returned to the earth, but meanwhile, each of us has a contribution to make.
Like these eggs, our human commonalities exceed our differences. The slightly darker shade of some shells is a reminder that enlightened people everywhere have learned to accept that skin colour is unimportant, and that people of all races, creeds, and colours can cluster together, sharing space like these eggs nestled in their transparent vase.
The egg, symbolic of renewal, of life hidden within the hard shell is particularly appropriate this year as we mark both Easter and Passover while staying physically apart from family and friends. The Easter Bunny whispered in my ear that he would leave a basket of hard-boiled eggs on my porch, eggs to chop up for egg salad to put on my Matzos. Meanwhile, I’ve used up most of my eggs to make the traditional matzo-ball soup, with one whole egg roasted to a golden-brown set aside to put on the seder plate, symbolic of rebirth, of the renewal of life which we all celebrate at this springtime of the year.
Along with an egg, the seder plate also gets a dollop of bitter herbs, and this year, we need no reminder of the bitterness that distance from our loved ones, danger for care-providers and for essential service workers, and alas, death for far too many of our fellow humans has brought. This led me to wonder why the Friday before Easter is called “Good” Friday. My mother used to call it Karfreitag which seems much more appropriate. Wikipedia reports that “In German-speaking countries, it is referred to as Karfreitag -“Mourning Friday”, with Kar from Old High German Kara‚ to bewail, to grieve.”
Because Passover marks the exodus from Egypt and enslavement, we sometimes think of the first night as a time of joyous liberation. But the first seder night in Egypt was truly a night of danger and trepidation akin to the present. God and Moses commanded families to stay inside and share an intimate meal, expressing their faith that family and ritual would serve as safeguards, so that their homes would indeed be passed-over.
We are similarly used to Easter as a time of gathering in churches to celebrate Life as a victory over Death. In my ears the laughter of children rings out as they hunt in parks and gardens and homes for the treats left by the Easter Bunny. In my ears too, the soaring music of organs and choirs singing their praises. Hallelujah! Hosannah in the Highest! Life reborn from the ashes of the past!
As we huddled in our homes, both the story of the Exodus and the hope of Easter have taken on new meanings. We have faith that we will make it out of this narrow space, so aptly symbolized by Egypt and by enslavement in all its forms. Enslavement to political and economic powers, as well as to unfair, unjust, out-dated societal systems that hold captive so many of the world’s unfortunates.
To embark on that journey will not be easy. As they wandered about in the searing desert sun, some of our ancestors longed to go back to Egypt, claiming that at least they had been well fed by their masters who valued a slave’s ability to do physical labour. Many people today are longing to return to “life as it used to be.” Yes, eventually, we will once again be able to be with our loved ones, but I suspect that nothing will ever be quite the same again. Nor should it.
My belief is that we are being called upon to envision a new world. A better world. A world in which everyone gets to grow and blossom. A world of co-existence with our fellow humans. A world of shared space, where we respect earth’s wonders and its fragility. Our current world is too much like the transparent vase that a single, careless, thoughtless human could so easily shatter.
We are called upon to envision a new world, and to do whatever we can to bring it about. Our individual acts of kindness are an important step in that direction.
This year — physically distant, next year — healthily together.