College of Arts and Sciences

Next year...


“Next year in Jerusalem!”

On this first day of Passover, the concluding words of the Haggadah* come to my mind. They are living words, intoned with resonances of the generations who have celebrated the Seder.

As one who has inherited another tradition, I welcome these words today as a source of consolation in a time of uncertainty and challenge.

I mentioned it at our first-ever Zoom-based College Meeting this week: we have entered that portion of the academic calendar when we come together (repeatedly!) to honor our students and our colleagues.

But not this year. An unsympathetic virus prevents our gatherings. I miss our rituals more than I expected, along with the accidental daily encounters that our campus affords us. Things are not as they should be.

For many of us, that loss this week will be compounded by the holiday break—not least for those who will celebrate Pesach (Passover) or Holy Week in unanticipated ways. Planned visits, family traditions, and some of our most familiar religious rites will not occur this year as we intended.

And yet I’m struck: these lost rituals themselves celebrate the resilience that our circumstances require of us.

Holy Week marks the devastating loss of the Passion juxtaposed with the joy of unanticipated resurrection. The matzo of Passover—the unleavened bread of affliction—embodies the strength to carry on despite exigencies.  
This year some of us will not spend the days ahead in our choice of places, or with our choice of people. We lament that loss, even as we adapt. We preserve the essence of what we hold most dear. And we defiantly persist in hope.

Next year in Jerusalem.

* See the online exhibit of Haggadot from HUC-JIR's Klau Library