Earlier this year, I wrote an essay about our tradition to open our doors at Passover. during the seder, when we recite HaLachma Anya: "This is the bread of our affliction; let all who hunger come and eat..." It is, perhaps, my favorite prayer. It is rare that I can say it without weeping a bit.
But it troubled me this year, and I couldn't quite pinpoint why.
We opened the doors. We recited the words. We closed the doors. And then we got on with it. It felt, if not different, then perfunctory and unfinished. Sitting in Shabbat morning service a week later, I was struck with this thought: how utterly un-Jewish those Passover doors are.
And there it was, the source of my unease, my dissatisfaction: Since when do we, as Jews, require that those in need come to us for aid? Since when do we wait?
We are not a people who sit idly by. We act. We do. We repair. And we do this, when we do it most Jewishly, joyfully, purposefully. We climb the ladder that Maimonides showed to us so that we can reach out to others-- enable others-- to become independent and productive. And always, always, we repair our world with compassion: no shame, no fanfare, no ticker tape parades. To wait for those in need to come to us, to announce to us their need, seems to fly in the face of our teaching.
Those doors of Passover-- so filled with hope and potential! But it is not enough to just open the door and hope. It cannot be. There is no time to wait for those who hunger, or thirst, or need to come to us. We must step through those doors, into the world, to heal and repair, to be the change we want to see. We must step through the doors of Passover, and know that, as we do, there is God-- there, exactly there. Perhaps it is there, exactly there, that we are redeemed.
This is Elul. And because it is, because I am called upon to reflect and prepare and return, I wonder: did I do enough?
I don't want to be like the man who, upon hearing the catalog of human suffering and hatred-- war and famine and despair not least among them-- cries out to God: "How can You allow this to happen, God?" only to hear God's reply as a still small voice from deep inside himself, "How can you?"
I will not fix the world. Not on my own, anyway. But I cannot wait for the world to fix itself. I cannot wait for someone else to bring healing or hope. It is my task to do. To act. To open the door and step through...