I love getting Lord Rabbi Jonathan Sacks’ words of wisdom via WhatsApp message on my phone. He always offers such refreshing and illuminating insights.
Today I listened to a short clip about the custom of spilling a drop of wine, including at the mention of the ten plagues during the Passover Seder meal.
Rabbi Sacks mentions that while many reasons for the custom have been offered, one of the most beautiful is derived from the Proverbs which says, “Do not rejoice when your enemy fails.” Rabbi Sacks continues, “Even as we give thanks for the miracle of the plagues as a result of which our ancestors gained their freedom, we also shed a symbolic tear for those who suffered.”
He goes on to discuss that “joy” is not mentioned in the Torah in connection with Passover because “God does not rejoice in the downfall of the wicked.”
“Moral maturity involves an ability to live with complex situations and emotions,” the rabbi explains. “We may be uplifted by an event because it represents the triumph of justice while at the same time identifying with the suffering of the victims.”
Those words immediately brought to my mind this photo of my Gazan Christian friend looking at this sign at the end of our visit to the DC Holocaust Museum.
I’m thankful that Rabbi Sacks offers opportunities to grapple with the complexities of Jewish ethics and responsibility in the light of both holidays and current events.