Change in the Face of Adversity: The egg, the matzah ball, and water
Rabbi’s Message – April 23, 2021
Last year, 30 people gathered on Zoom for the Passover Seder. In our household, Matt, the kids, and I attempted to navigate Zoom with Matt’s siblings and their children. It was not the finest Seder of my life. In fact, I was disappointed to be holed up at home, so accustomed to large holiday gatherings. And now, here we are a year later, and my Seder is going to look just about the same – just Matt, the kids, and I, probably with some family on Zoom.
Except, this year, it’s different because we knew it was coming. This year, there are a vast number of digital resources, and using video conferencing software is an old trick for many at this point. In culling through those digital resources, I found this one from The Blue Dove Foundation, which provides a mental health framework for Passover classics. In this article, one thing that stands out is the description of the egg on the seder plate: “It’s traditional to roast or char the egg, leading to a fun interpretation – an egg, just like us, is resilient! The hotter the flame, the tougher we get. We aren’t weakened by struggle; we overcome it and become stronger.” This interpretation reminded me of the lesson about what happens to a potato, an egg, and coffee beans when exposed to boiling water. The potato – the biggest and strongest of them, becomes the weakest. The egg, hardens, becoming perhaps stronger, as Blue Dove Foundation suggests, and the coffee beans, they change the water.
We all respond to adversity in our ways, whether it be slavery in Egypt, a pandemic, or some other challenge. This Passover, the egg on the plate can remind us of how we can be strengthened by challenges – even if we get a little charred on the outside. But maybe we don’t always become stronger, and that’s okay. I also think of the matzah ball, that when cooked, becomes soft (and delicious), – unlike its unboiled original version. Exposure to the hot water has changed not only the matzah ball, but the water around it has also become different. What was once just plain water has become infused with the flavors of chicken and vegetables through the process of cooking and becoming soup. The matzah ball and its environment have been forever changed. And maybe we too, in facing adversity, changed the situation around us instead of ourselves – turning water into soup.
We may be like the egg, the matzah ball, or the soup – stronger in the face of adversity, slightly softer because of it, or completely changed. Each of these reactions are a part of who we are as individuals and who we are as a people. And so, we will sit down this year and tell the story of Passover like we have for thousands of years. Maybe we will reminisce over the seders that have been and fantasize the seders that might be next year, all the while experiencing the seder that is. It’ll be different, but after all, isn’t Passover all about being different than other nights?