It is with heavy hearts, even as we continue to celebrate with joy our Festival of Freedom, that we find ourselves once again confronting intolerance and hatred, murder and terror. And just as we demand that the world speak out in horror when Jewish lives are taken so too do we speak out in solidarity and pain over the senseless loss of lives when those of other religions are murdered while peaceably celebrating their faith.
The coordinated bombings throughout Sri Lanka this past Sunday, which claimed the lives of nearly 300 souls, many of whom were celebrating Easter services in their houses of worship, are yet one more in a horrendous series of recent atrocities shattering the peaceful expression of religious devotion around the world. Last month, 50 people were murdered in two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand and this past October, eleven worshippers of our faith were targeted at the Tree of Life–Or L’Simcha Congregation in Pittsburgh.
At our Seder celebrations, our tradition asks us to imagine that we personally experienced the passage from the degradation of our bondage to our liberation at the shores of the Red Sea. The matzah reminds us of the poverty and affliction experienced by our ancestors and of their need to leave in haste. The maror recalls the bitterness of their bondage. The salt water reminds us of the tears they shed and the pain of their suffering. Our Passover retelling ends in hope as we express our faith in the inevitability of redemption: This year we may still be slaves but next year, next year we will be free! This year we celebrate here—next year in Jerusalem!
And so, even as we mourn another murderous act of terror which has claimed the lives of innocents, we will not give in to despair, cynicism, or apathy. Instead, as is the Jewish way, we will continue to imagine the world as it is meant to be and then, with energy and purpose, we will do the work of repairing the world as God’s own partners.
May the memories of those souls martyred in churches, mosques, and synagogues in Sri Lanka, New Zealand, Pittsburgh, and elsewhere forever be for a blessing. May the bitterness and despair we experience at moments like these never vanquish the eternal hope we carry that one day, soon, the words of the prophet Isaiah will be realized: “They shall beat their swords into plowshares, their spears into pruning hooks; people shall not lift up sword against one another, neither shall they learn violence any more.” (Isaiah 2:4)