(A post begun on Thursday and finished late in the night after the best kind of seder, with great friends and wonderful, provocative discussion as abundant and delicious as the food.)
It is finally, undoubtedly, spring in New York. The sun was dancing around the clouds when I walked out of services this morning, presaging coming weeks of dew (for which we just yearned in the "Tal" prayer) and rain. I love the spring but it sometimes makes me sad, reminding me of all the decisions I avoided during months of darkness. The most glorious, birdsong-filled day of April always seems to happen on my birthday; I am both grateful for reaching this season and unenthused about getting older, not knowing where I'm headed.
But I long ago decided that since there's more sunlight in spring than shadows, I might as well wait until the winter to hide under clouds. The months of spring are a time to be honest. I need to follow the lead of my ancestors, who complained ("oy, this manna tastes just like gefilte fish!") but still managed to emerge, with joy and song, from the narrow place.
I chanted Torah this morning, the entire story in one spare paragraph: "In the middle of the night, the Lord struck down all the first-born in the land of Egypt..." (Exodus 12:29-36). In time it takes to read a sentence, "there was no house where there was not someone dead." Pharaoh begs Moses and Aaron to leave, his screams loudest over the agonizing cries of the rest of Egypt, and in the next breath asks for their blessing. I was struck by his humility; even the most evil souls can change and become human. I would like to think God also heard Pharaoh's cry and was merciful when exercising His wrath, and that the killing of the firstborn was kosher and quick. When I reached to the word for "struck down" I tried to sing quietly and tenderly, pausing slightly for emphasis and then moving on. We need to remember, but not gloat; violence, even God's necessary, justified kind, is not something to be proud of.