I've never done anything like this before.
Much of our Seder has been dedicated to the nourishment of the more subtle levels of experience –subtle expression, perception, experience, relationship, and gratitude. But the first matzah we ate tonight was not meant to be subtle─it is the staff of life, borne of necessity, eaten to satisfy hunger rather than for the sake of enjoyment. Now, as we stand at the ready to eat the afikoman , we are seeking to nourish our more nuanced sides.
Needs are most often not as subtle as wants. I need to eat; but I want a crepe. I need a life partner; but I want him or her to be tall, fit, interested in water-sports, non-smoking, etc. Our needs are essentially shared with all of humankind─our wants make us who we are as individuals. We often do not feel privileged to indulge in wants─getting our basic needs met seems enough of a challenge in many aspects of life. We are therefore forced, quite often, to keep our desires buried deep inside, where they will not be quashed by ‘reality’.
But tonight we eat a food that nourishes only those aspects of ourselves. This is the afikoman ─no longer staff of life, equally calibrated for all, but bread of desire, of enjoyment, of subtlety and uniqueness. This bread is tzafun ─hidden because it addresses the completely unique soul deep within us. It helps that part of us grow in strength as a pathway to connection and holiness.
This bread is the perfect food for each of us as individuals. It contains the exact spiritual vitamins each of us needs in order to thrive. The piece you have is perfectly designed for you.
When it comes time to recite the ten plagues, there is a tradition of dipping a bit of wine out of our cups as we say each plague, diminishing our joy just a bit as we recall the difficulties that befell the Egyptians.
This seder tradition calls to mind a famous midrash (rabbinic commentary), on the moment during the Exodus when the Egyptian army was drowning in the sea, just after the Israelites crossed to freedom. The angels turned to one another to sing their daily praises, when God hushed them, saying, "The work of My hands is drowning in the sea, and you would sing songs before Me?!"
While we cannot erase the suffering of the Egyptians from our freedom story, we can acknowledge that a human price was paid. As we recite the plagues, as we drop a bit of wine onto our plates, we are invited to remember that our own freedom--as Americans, as Jews--often comes with a price paid by others. We can take this moment to reflect on the damage done, whether intentional or not, that has allowed us to enjoy our freedom and our privilege.
If I am economically privileged, what is the cost borne by others –in my own countryaround the world –to allow me my comforts? If I am white, at what cost comes the relative ease with which I move through the world? As a Jew, as someone connected to Israel, how do I reckon with the terrible price paid by the Palestinian people for the creation of the Jewish state? This is not a moment for guilt, but for honest reckoning, for acknowledgement, and perhaps a commitment to make some kind of tikkun, repair, during this season of redemption.