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Pesach Yizkor Message


                This season of our redemption from Egypt is observed and celebrated in many ways.  We have our seders, our various family traditions regarding foods, tastes, smells and naturally the opportunity to spend time together. Home is the center of our Pesach seders–the familiar chairs, tables and most importantly the individuals who gather around our familiar dining rooms and kitchens. When our tables are full we become anxious over making sure everything is just so and we consume ourselves with asking questions–‘is there enough food?’, ‘will the children have enough activities with which to occupy themselves?,’ ‘Can cousin Sandy sit near Aunt Marty and behave appropriately?’

These small questions can consume our minds and brains to the extent that we have a hard time focusing on the true meaning of the holiday.

                But, when our tables are not quite as full, when we have an empty chair or two, our thoughts drift in other directions–we miss the bantering we worried about so many years before. We miss seeing the children running around, often getting under our feet.

                And, perhaps, most notably we miss the delicious dishes that only our beloved relatives can prepare. The smells and tastes that often filled our homes for so many years are gone and although we mourn, life does continue.

                Despite our grief, we continue to observe and celebrate, as our loved ones encourage us. Following the loss of a parent, we assume the roles that were always done by mom and dad. We use the familiar seder plate, we try to re-create the same charoset that he or she so lovingly made. These symbolic connections to our past help to remind us of their spiritual presence that stays with us.

                Our loved ones continue to live within our own souls. When we pray the Amidah, the time in our service when we invoke the name of our ancestors, we do so for their merit. It is with the gift of this legacy that we pledge ourselves to K’lal Yisrael–the entire Jewish community. So too, is it true for our beloved. As we reflect on the image of our loved ones who have died and honor them by reciting our Yizkor, memorial prayers we must ask ourselves what role they are still playing in our lives. Are we still being guided internally by their wisdom and values that they imparted to us? Do we hear their words in our minds when we are about to make a decision and we crave their advice? On Pesach, the season of our freedom, as we re-tell the significant time of our transition from slavery to redemption we must answer affirmatively.

                We look only to the future. There is no benefit in dwelling on the past. We remember and honor and look ahead. Just as the Israelites needed the encouragement of Moses and God to understand that greater opportunities lie ahead, so too, do we, rely on God and our community today. There are challenging times, there are sad times. After the loss of a loved one, life continues, in a different way. At times, the memories of our loved ones come flooding back. Often, a holiday such as Passover, with some many deeply rooted traditions in the home is one such occasion. As a modern haggadah notes, “There is no one among us whose body or soul is not permeated by cracks, some wide, some narrow, some deep, others shallow. At times, so many of us feel fragile, fractured, wanting only to gather up the shattered pieces. If only we could put them back together, to be smooth, unblemished once more. But, our journey is not back into the past, but forward, into a future where we transform our pieces into a whole that is both strong and weathered.”

                We remember our loved ones at many different times and in varying ways. Our traditions help us to mourn our losses but at the same time celebrate the gifts we enjoyed from them when they were alive.

                Death is challenging. There is no short-cut or immediate fix for a loss. At times it is devastating, at times it can be a relief. These emotions are real and honest. We serve ourselves best when we understand our limitations and come to terms with our loss. We have to work at our own pace, not at the pace others may demand. We bring a sense of kavod, honor, to our loved ones by continuing to observe and celebrate our sacred times just as we would had they been sitting at the table with us.

                At this time of year, more so than any other, do we recall the history of our people. That ability permits us also to recall our own pasts. While we look ahead to the future we can’t help but look at how far we have come. We glimpse, but we don’t linger in the past. Those hard times that were in the past hopefully come to serve as gateways to inspire us in the future.

                When we lose our loved one, our identities are forever changed. Judaism encourages us to accept this change. Certainly not immediately, not overnight, but over time. We survive with our faith and in the support of our family and our friends. We cherish the good times–perhaps we are encouraged to change our outlooks, to ignore those mundane details that often seemed to occupy so much time and energy. Our grief is real, but it does not have to be completely consuming.

                We conclude our seder with the phrase, “L’shana habah berushalyim–Next Year in Jerusalem!” We end in the hope that next year all of our people will be redeemed–in the future we will all be free. Free to enjoy in spite of the loss, free to celebrate with the memories of all of our loved ones deeply embedded within our own hearts and minds.

Ken Yi Hi Ratzon–May this be God’s Will.

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