Shabbat Pesah VIII 5776
When Pesah begins on Shabbat, we in the Diaspora experience a unique confluence of observances on the final day of the holiday, which is also Shabbat. On the one hand, as is always the case on the last day of Pesah, we recite Yizkor. But on the very same day, since there’s no Shabbat Hol HaMo’ed, we read Shir HaShirim–a chapter from Song of Songs.
The connection between these two rituals became more poignant for me with the publication of a book called Love Finer Than Wine: The Writings of Matthew Eisenfeld and Sara Duker. Matt was a peer of mine as a JTS rabbinical student, and Sara was his girlfriend; they were killed in a terrorist bus bombing 20 years ago while spending a year in Israel. The book is edited by our mutual friend Rabbi Edward Bernstein, and it includes various kernels of genius that show Matt’s and Sara’s vast potential. The title is taken from Shir HaShirim, and was chosen to express not only Matt’s scholarship (it was the subject of his final student paper), but his and Sara’s love.
When two young people whose love and talents both were extinguished before reaching fruition, we can feel bereft of hope. Remembering them on Yizkor must be, for their loved ones, an experience of grief and regret; oh, what could have been! But by publishing the writings they left behind at the tender ages of 25 (Matt) and 23 (Sara), Rabbi Bernstein has shown us far more than just that of which terror deprived us.
On Shabbat and Yom Tov morning, before Yizkor, I’ll share some reflections on the book, and the lessons we can draw from the experience of remembering those who left us behind. For after all, they left much more behind than just us!
Wishing you a Shabbat Shalom and Hag Sameah,
Rabbi David Wise