Thought Of The Week: 21 April 2016 (Rabbi Maurice Michaels)

Written by Writings & Sermons by others — 21 April 2016

Severe damage to a hip is not a benefit in the run up to Pesach.  All of the stretching up to that overhead cupboard or reaching down to that below stairs cupboard in which many of us store those once-a-year utencils, etc. is really out of the question.  Having a hip replacement is even worse.  You may just have bought the shopping first, but it has to be put away.  The space you allocated for it is now completely out of reach.  You may have started the process of cleaning the fridge and freezer, but how on earth do you get the back corners.  And as for the oven?  down on hands and knees?  you have to be joking!  So Pesach preparation this year has taken a bit of a beating along with my old hip.  For those who don’t know, I was barged into by someone leaving a train on Holborn Station, literally sent flying and landed heavily on my side necessitating a total hip replacement and an enforced stay in hospital, where I received amazing care and attention.

Friends, colleagues and congregants have been very supportive, as have been colleagues from other faith groups.  Indeed, from all the messages of kindness and good wishes I received, I informed the Executive Director of the Interfaith Network for the UK that it was good to know that the prayers of so many different faiths in the UK are coalesing – even if only for my speedy recovery!  The Jewish co-Chair responded that unfortunately, we won’t know which one does the trick!

But Pesach will be very different this year.  Four glasses of wine will have to be forsaken for grape juice as I still have to take pain killers and anti-biotics.  The huge box of medication I arrived home with from the hospital pharmacy that could have supplied a field hospital inevitably contains unknown quantities of chametz that won’t be thrown out.  Charoset will come out of a jar, instead of my usual careful blending of nuts, apple, cinnamon and wine, with a hint of date honey to please the s’fardi members of my family.   And with the family tragedy earlier in the year, the bitter herbs will superfluous and we won’t need nearly so much salt water to symbolise the tears – they’ll be real enough.

However, we cannot gloss over the real message of Pesach – redemption.  The sad events of the years of bondage in Egypt, the oppression and the suffering, which seemed as though they would never end, were over.  The Israelites were free.  This message has been taken to heart by many other groups of people since, who themselves have found freedom.  It hasn’t always come as has been hoped, because the second half of the message has been overlooked – that the freedom carries with it responsibility.  Whether this message can be taken at the individual level as compared to the communal, I’ve yet to discover, but as we move into this season of our freedom, this spring Festival, let me wish you and those close to you an enjoyable seder, a happy and meaningful Pesach and a freedom from troublesome hips!