Passover 5776


In the early 1990’s archaeological excavations at the base of the Western Wall yielded an amazing discovery.  In place were two huge stones: one measuring over twenty-seven feet long and weighing over an estimated 400 tons.  How these stones were quarried and transported and set in place at the base of the wall still remains a mystery.  Yet there is something else that is odd.

As mighty and as sturdy as such a stone (an ashlar, in technical terms) should be, there is a diagonal crack about a meter long across its face.  One enterprising scholar discovered that the story of the crack is actually mentioned in a parchment literary fragment recovered by Solomon Schechter from the Cairo Geniza.  Apparently, an earthquake one Pesah during the Geonic Age (between the ninth and the eleventh centuries), shook the foundations of the Temple Mount.  The crack is the result.  Most visitors do not notice the crack.  The massive stone is so imposing that the rack seems almost imperceptible.  Archaeologists know to look for the crack but most tourists overlook the crack.

Overlooking cracks is not just a description of the behavior of visitors to the Temple excavations.  It is an attitude that ought to be inculcated into the heart of every Jew.  And it is especially apt to consider this attitude during Pesah: the anniversary of that earthquake that created the crack.

When the Kohanim are ready to bless the people (a practice included in the synagogue service during Passover) they are required to lift up their hands, separate their fingers, and look through the cracks (Tur, Orah Hayim 128).  This also fulfills the sentiment in the Song of Songs (2:9 – read during Passover) that God is perceived to peer out at the world through the cracks.  Rabbi Abraham Gumbiner (Orah Hayim, 128:18), however, adds another dimension to the requirement.  Citing the mystical book Zohar that teaches, “Any kohen who does not love his people or is loved by his people should not raise his hands in blessing,” Rabbi Gumbiner suggests that the kohen must look beyond the cracks to bless the people and the people must look beyond the cracks to accept the kohen.  Everyone, it seems, has faults; cracks, so to speak.  The essence of amity and community is to strive to overlook the cracks, in us and in each other.

This is a supplemental message of Passover.  To be sure, both Jews and Judaism are not all they ought to be.  But the task before us on Passover is not to focus on the cracks but on the foundation.


Words to Live By

What lies behind you and what lies ahead of you pales in comparison to what lies inside you.

– Ralph Waldo Emerson

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