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Once New, Now Old

04/20/2022 01:18:40 PM


Imagine you just bought something new and shiny. Congratulations! You’re full of excitement and eager to show it off to all your friends. You’re careful to keep it clean and unblemished. It’s a highlight of your day, your week, perhaps even your month. But as time keeps marching on, what was once new becomes old and familiar. You still value your item, but it’s now one of the many things you own. You’re happy you bought it, but it’s just not as exciting as it was when it was first introduced into your life. Such is life.

Interestingly, our sages imagine the same thing happening to us with our celebration of Passover. On the first days of the holiday, we come to synagogue to pray and recite a series of verses and psalms called the Hallel; a sequence of prayers that epitomize joy. We recite the Hallel on joyous times, which in the liturgical playbook means that we recite them on holidays. With the exceptions of Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur (because how can you be joyous when your judgement is being evaluated at that very moment by the Divine) and Purim (the megillah stands in for our liturgical representation of joy), we recite Hallel on every other joyous holiday; including Passover. However, our recitation of Hallel becomes a little diminished as the holiday progresses. Whereas on the first days of the holiday we recite what is called the “full Hallel,” on the remainder of the holiday we recite the abridged and shortened version of the palms. Unlike the other long holiday, Sukkot, where we read a full Hallel the entire holiday, Passover’s recitation loses some of its grandeur on the last 3/4 of the holiday. Why?

One answer that is given is that whereas Sukkot has different sacrifices for each subsequent day, Passover’s sacrifices for each day of the holiday are the same. Starting from the first day of the intermediate days until the end of the holiday, todays sacrifice is just like yesterdays, and tomorrows will be the same as todays. Or in other words, the new and exciting sacrifice at the start of the holiday, just isn’t as shiny and exciting as it once was.

As we enter these last few days of the holiday, I think I’m experiencing this slowdown of excitement. I don’t have any seder meals to look forward to and my matzah tastes a little more stale (though, it might actually be a little more stale). Yet, one thing we can take away from the abridged Hallel is that even though we recognize that what was once new is now old, we still say Hallel; there still is joy. Even though something has become old and familiar, does not mean that it doesn’t have value. It just means that we might be a little quicker to take it for granted and it’s not on our mind as often as it once was. If we can listen to the abridged Hallel these last few days, perhaps we can take a moment to remember the things that were once exciting in our lives. Perhaps we can recognize the blessings that have lost their luster and reclaim them for a moment with the appreciation they deserve. And then girded with this gratefulness, perhaps we can offer our praise, and bring a little more joy into this holiday and into our lives.

Chag Sameach, and Shabbat Shalom

Sat, May 25 2024 17 Iyyar 5784