“Moses said to Joshua: “This nation that I am entrusting you with, they are still young goats, they are still children. Do not be irritated with them for what they do, for their Master too was not irritated with them for what they did.” As it is written, “When Israel was a youth, I loved him; from Egypt I summoned My son.”
When Israel rebelled against G-d at the Sea of Reeds, the angels said to G-d: “They are rebelling and provoking, yet You are silent?!”
G-d said to the angels: “They are children. And one does not get irritated with children. Just as a child emerges soiled from the womb and is then washed, so too Israel: ‘I washed your blood from upon you. I anointed you with oil and dressed you in embroidered garments . . .’” (Ezekiel 16:9–10)
The sun rose, cocks crowed, or
maybe it was the other way around–
whatever. It was just another day, rather,
just another day before Sabbath.
Except for one thing, it would be more
than just another preparation day.
It was Passover. You know the drill.
Every Jew in Jerusalem had family and
friends coming in from out-of-town.
Hustle, hurry, meet, greet, a kiss of welcome.
It was Friday. For such a day as this,
things go on as a ritual for my busy people–
harried officials, smug, mounted Roman soldiers
exercised crowd control in their manner.
Tradesmen, bakers, dealers in spring lamb–
yes. It was good. The scents of money, blood, incense, death
filled the Temple courtyard, that was
shoulder-to-shoulder jammed. Conversation,
haggling, shouting, inspecting. Only the best
for Uncle Avram. Of course only the best for
Hashem, that’s a given. This was a day of
Remembrance. Candles will be lit, blessings sung;
questions will be asked and answered
around the table that night. “Why is this night
different from all other nights?” a child will ask.
Centuries pass, still the need to ask and answer.
Events of such eternal significance must be told.
And retold. Again and again so that all would know,
all would remember the taste of bitter herbs and
salty tears. It was important. It was a must.
Even if only one was present for the feast, our
Father G-d is always present to hear, to reply.
There was a difference that day. Many felt it,
most ignored it. Too much to do, and already
the day half gone. Maybe the strange weather;
but it was not unusual for spring storms to rumble.
It was the season when the people of the book celebrated.
Their forebears had been spared by the blood of the lamb.
An unblemished lamb, innocent, with no stain upon it.
It was a Friday morning. Family had arrived. Table almost set.
All was made ready, as prescribed by law. There was joy,
yes. There was joy, but something else ran through me, and I trembled.
Some strange parade blocked my way to my house.
I waited impatiently, rather than struggle through the jeering,
the crying, shouting crowd. Then I see a man, bent low,
stumbling down the street, surrounded by soldiers
on foot and horseback, taunting this poor man, horribly flayed,
doing his best to bear a heavy wooden beam. His
lips moved, but above the noise of the crowd, I could
catch only a phrase or two, sung in agony.
Shouts from the throng of this procession I could hear.
“Innocent! He is blameless! He is our King! Stop all
this insanity! A mistake has been made! Please, please,
have mercy! Of what is he guilty but compassion?”
I hurried home, at last able to make my wy,
already behind in my preparation,
and I had not yet purchased the blessed wine.
Nothing was done differently by the Romans that day,
a day they called ordinary.
A hill of death stood outside the city walls. There I
heard crucifixion was accomplished according to the cruel custom;
that bleeding man alongside two others. The deaths were well done
by Roman law. Complete before Sabbath began–
a concession made to keep order in a Passover-crowded city.
They called it
Death came quicker than most.
The one some called Messiah was dead, so how could he be Messiah?
Confusion was everywhere. Someone, something had rent the Temple curtain.
That singing man was buried in a borrowed tomb before sundown.
Unaware, my family celebrated the sacraments that night. We sang our hymns
of sorrow, joy, and redemption. We slept. Saturday, the Sabbath,
we awoke to our day of rest. We heard nothing, even from the
gates of our home from which we could not leave on Sabbath.
Those who kept not the law, or were not our people,
had nothing to say; wrapping their cloaks tightly, bowing,
unwilling to speak even the cursory pleasantries.
Later I learned. An uproar among and between both Sanhedrin and Romans.
As I said, it was different, that Passover. The air now is balmier, sweeter;
perhaps because the crowds have dispersed to return home.
still I wonder about that Friday. About, (at least to me), the somber Sabbath.
But most of all, in my mind’s ear I hear the few parts of a psalm
sung in that curiously strong, yet soft voice, clearly in agony:
“Bless the Lord, oh my soul, and all that is within me
Bless His Holy name!”
So be it, my Blessed Lord! I too shall sing.
For all of you I wish the overwhelming abundance if enough. . .