Pesach is a challenging time. From the effort involved in cleaning the house to the preparations required for the Seder nights, there is always a long list of chores needed for this Festival. There is, however, another angle of emotional difficulty. It can often be a very painful and confronting time for many. Just this year past year I was talking to someone at the Seder and they mentioned how they could vividly recall their father singing the Chad Gadya song so beautifully. He expressed how it was so special for him and how each year since his father’s passing when they reached the Chad Gadya it almost reawakened the void he felt without having his father physically present. Many of us have special family traditions or memories from Pesach. For some it might be the matzah balls made by their mother or grandmother. For others it might be the memory of their mother or father carrying them to bed after falling asleep at the Seder table. Whatever the memory might be, it is something that perhaps will come to mind when we remember our loved ones during the Yizkor prayer on Acharon Shel Pesach.
There is an inspiring and possibly comforting message from the events celebrated on the last days of Pesach that we can connect to the memory of our beloved who are no longer with us. I take us back to Joseph, Yosef, on his deathbed. He charges his children with a very special mission. Knowing that he would not be able to be buried outside of Egypt as the Egyptians would never tolerate their political leader being buried in a foreign land, Joseph, makes them promise that one day they would move his bones and bury him in the Holy Land. We indeed learn that when the Jewish people were leaving Egypt – whilst everyone else was taking their possessions (their iphones and ipads)- Moses retrieved the Atzmot Yosef (the bones of Joseph).
Now clearly this shows us the importance of Israel and the holiness of the land but there is something deeper happening as well. Perhaps Joseph, was foreseeing what would happen after his death. There would be pain, grief, suffering – there would be Mitzrayim, – but Joseph also foresaw a time when they would leave Egypt. To seek a way forward after such pain and suffering, Joseph instructed his children to taken with them Joseph’s bones. The word Atzmot could also be read as Atzmut (essence).
Joseph was telling his children that while I will no longer be here with you physically, you can bring my essence along with you!
By continuing the tradition of our forebears and “sing their songs”, they come along with us. We bring their essence along on our life journey.
For those of us who will remain behind for Yizkor this year, let us reflect on the memory of our own Joseph. We will no doubt wish that they could be there with us in the physical sense. We will remember the loss and pain of losing them but we will also remember the message of Joseph. We must carry them forward, we must ensure they continue to journey along with us, albeit in a spiritual sense. When we do that we allow ourselves to enter the “Promise Land”, we can enter into a new sphere, we can pave a new way forward and in this way we ensure that one day when it is our time to part this world, our essence too will continue on with our loved ones. We will make sure that our song will also continue to be sung.
Wishing you a Shabbat Shalom and a beautiful last days of Pesach