Rabbis Without Borders
Rabbis Without Borders is a dynamic forum for exploring contemporary issues in the Jewish world and beyond. Written by rabbis of different denominations, viewpoints, and parts of the country, Rabbis Without Borders is a project of Clal – The National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership.
Coming out of Egypt, the Children of Israel crossed the Sea of Reeds (also known as the Red Sea) walking on “dry land in the midst of the sea.” The Hasidic master, the Netivot Shalom, explains this to mean that even after they emerged onto dry land, the People continued to experience themselves as if in the midst of a miracle. The sea’s parting became a lens through which they experienced the miracles of every day, and ever afterward they saw their world as wondrous, amazing. The cataclysmic phenomenon of the sea’s un-natural parting sensitized them to the miraculous order of nature in her ordinary state, in which seas ebb and flow by the force of predictable tides. The miracle of the ordinary was amplified by experience of the extra-ordinary.
My teacher Reb Zalman Schachter-Shalomi, z”l, elaborates that the miracle we are meant to attune ourselves to is the miracle that underlies all of nature. In moments when what we call “miracle” occurs, that miraculous order becomes obviously visible to us, but in truth the creative flow that courses through the universe is a flow steadily suffusing the order of all existence, whether or not we notice.
As I boil eggs for our seder meal I find myself contemplating their innocent perfection and their intended symbolism on the seder table as signs of life reborn after a close call, of continuity despite persecution, and of springtime with all the hope and joy this season unleashes in the human heart. The egg is surely an ordinary miracle.
This year, we’ll be eating our Passover eggs on Earth Day, the day that calls us to arms as protectors of the ongoing miracle of Creation. And this year’s Passover egg, dipped in water salty as tears, will be more than an invitation to embody a narrative of past suffering; it will serve as a warning as well – a warning to take the vulnerability of our [weeping] earth and her creatures to heart.
In our time, perhaps simple wonders like the egg must serve as the miracles that change our seeing and our knowing, arousing our understanding that tides cannot be taken for granted, nor can the cycle of our season. We are in danger of forgetting the miracle that underlies all that is. Celebrating our Holiday of Spring as she is conflated with Earth Day reminds us to stand on this earth cognizant that we are, indeed, in the very midst of a miracle profound enough that if we perverted or interrupted it, a cataclysmic phenomenon might ensue from which the tide cannot recede.
Pronounced: SAY-der, Origin: Hebrew, literally “order”; usually used to describe the ceremonial meal and telling of the Passover story on the first two nights of Passover. (In Israel, Jews have a seder only on the first night of Passover.)