Editor’s Letter: A Gift Passed Along: Pesach 5780| April 6, 2020
Months ago, when we began planning this supplement, we could never have imagined the surreal circumstances under which it would be sent to print.
We knew, back then, that we wanted to build a collection of images and essays, all revolving around a single theme: the dynamic of mesorah, the transmission of values and spiritual wealth from one generation to another.
We knew, back then, that every photographer and writer we approached could provide an individual perspective on the gift passed along. One would describe a mentor, one would choose a parent. One would zoom in on a hilltop scene, another on a diamond-encrusted ring. We wanted to share the richness and variety of all those different perspectives.
We knew, back then, that mesorah is an axis of the Pesach season, a given and a goal that animates so much of what we do at this time of year. It shapes our cleaning and our eating practices, it influences the structure of the Haggadah, it molds our focus and sets our priorities. On the night of our nation’s birth, we grip that chain taking us back to where it all started, and do our best to solder strong links spanning forward, to the next generation.
We didn’t know, back then, that we’d be finalizing this project during a time of historic fear and tragedy. We had no way of predicting that virtually every pillar of our stability and security – personal, medical, political, financial -- would be in the process of crumbling.
We didn’t know, back then, that so many of the outer trappings that we conflate with our own identities would have been stripped away. We couldn’t have imagined that we’d be planning for the Yom Tov of liberation while shut inside our homes under extreme constraints.
We didn’t know, back then, how fundamentally each of us would be grappling with the question we sent out to our photographers and writers: what is that elusive value, principle, legacy you hope to transmit? What is it that you want your children to know with absolute clarity? What is the gift you hope to pass along?
In a way it’s harder right now to focus on those essential, existential questions. There’s no structure anymore – nowhere to go, nowhere to be, no appointments to make, no events to attend. And there’s not much of a schedule either – no schoolbus to catch, no minyan to miss, no extra-curricular classes. There are perpetually hungry, bored people and stumps of crayons and books that have been ready too many times and work assignments that scream for attention (but also can’t really be completed without silence).
But in a way there’s not much left besides those essential, existential questions. Here we are, shut inside with ourselves and those closest to us – no noise, no distractions, nowhere else to go or be – save for that timeless imperative of transmitting our bedrock beliefs to the children around the table and to the questioning child that still exists inside us all.
With best wishes for a yom tov of true geulah,
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