Two big things happened in my life this week. First, I dealt with a campus uproar. Secondly, the city of Washington planted a tree at my house.
The tree’s auspicious appearance felt fated; I had just returned home from a massive Passover shopping expedition with my daughter, a rite of spring in endless Jewish households. Upon arriving home, with birds chirping and sun shining, the tree had arrived just in time for the holiday; it’s dead predecessor had been removed nearly a year ago, with no indication of when the city would plant the newest Sassafras on the block.
Both before and after its’ arrival, I had been fielding phone calls and texts all day from campus. Although deeply concerned by the comments that generated the controversy, I was and continue to be far more concerned with our student response; discomfort, after all, offers life’s best teachable moments. Should we give the issue oxygen, perhaps bringing hatred more spotlight than it deserves? Should we stand up for injustice, yelling from the rooftops, oxygen already given by others? Where is the give and where is the take, on a day you are deeply saddened by how far we still have to go to create a world of peace and meaningful disagreement?
Blessedly – trees and Pesach give me endless means to sift through these unanswerable questions. My beautiful Sassafras gives more oxygen than it takes; only when this inequality remains can the tree thrive. The karpas we will eat tonight is alone, fresh and sweet; but when tempered with salt water, bitterness remains. However, the bitterness of the maror is made sweeter and more palatable by the charoset. Passover, after all, is not a story of isolation; it is a story of exchange and conversation, give and take. Tonight, we enter into a conversation with our history, each other, and ourselves. It is not our sole responsibility to give a conversation oxygen; in fact, it would leave us lonely and unchallenged. Yet we must bring our voices to the table, in order to create an engaged community we all seek to be a part of.
This Passover, what oxygen will you give towards your growth and the growth of your community?
Chag Sameach from my family & from GW Hillel.