“Rabbi Elazar, son of Azariah said: I was never able to find support for the commandment to relate the narrative of the Exodus from Egypt at night; until Ben Zoma explained it… It is written,‘You must remember the day of your going forth from the land of Egypt all the days of your life’. He observed that if the verse had merely said ‘days of you life’, it would refer only to daytime, but ‘all the days of your life’ includes the nights as well…” (Passover Haggadah)

I am sitting in a garden, in the calm warming sunshine of late afternoon. It is the beginning of spring, and flowers are bursting in a profusion of color. A lush green carpet of grass. A merry row of yellow flowers. Are they dandelions? Daffodils? A profusion of white climbing roses. The color of holiness, of otherworldliness. Their petals blanketing the walk as heavy white snowfall. A meeting of heaven and earth, showering the way in front of us with whiteness, with purity and hope.

There is an eerie peacefulness to the garden. A stubborn stillness and calm, broken only by the call of birds as they merrily sing to one another from various treetops. A flock or two fly overhead. Are they heading for Jerusalem? They are undoubtedly aiming in that direction. I watch in wonder, as the birds soar overhead in perfect alignment, knowing without knowing their path in flight.

The sky is glowing in bright hopefulness, just before the setting of the sun. So that we will remember, as the night approaches with its darkness.

It is that time of year, the time of spring. Of rebirth. Of redemption and liberation. We are born and reborn again, as the flowers which reappear now in the lovely garden. And we tell and retell the story to our children, to our grandchildren. So that they will remember.

So that we will remember. As we as a nation are faced with grief, with pain, with unbearable tragedy. In the perilousness and wonder of our fate.

So that we will remember, now.

In this period of time, when Passover has just been followed by Yom Hashoah, which will be followed by Yom Hazikaron and Yom Haaztmaut.

“Blessed art Thou, O Lord, our God, King of the universe, who hast kept us alive, and sustained us, and brought us to reach this season.”

What is it about this time of year which evokes sadness and hope as one? Perhaps the pre-holiday cleaning? As we clean windows and scrub floors, there is something in the soul which struggles to be cleansed as well. Perhaps cleansed of the pain and the suffering of our human situation. Something in the promise of spring’s renewal sprinkles us as well with hope. Life will now be more beautiful, closer to perfection. The colors brighter, the tragedies of the past swept away, redeemed.

Or, Are they?

It was just Yom Hashoah. During my early years in Israel, every year on this day I would take the children out of nursery school, out of elementary school. We would go to the highway, or to the busiest street we could find. We would walk up and down the street, and wait. Just wait. So that we could stand together, in memory. Now, in the Promised Land, in the Land of Israel, in freedom. The sirens would begin to wail, we would watch as cars came to a standstill, drivers got out of their cars and stood for two minutes of silence. Witnessing the great unity of our country. A reminder. Once we were victims, now we are free in our own land. Free to choose, free to remember.

For the present and the future both have their roots in the past. Our personal past as individuals, our collective past as a nation.

And we, the children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren. The future generations. How do we preserve the memory? Are we worthy?

Perhaps the most profound response to our legacy of horror is in our celebration of life. Our affirmation of dignity and goodness in the face of evil. Something in the soul refused to succumb to the contrary, but insists instead on the power of the dream. In the face of agony and despair, we struggle to live lives of kindness and faith. Faced with death, with suffering and cruelty, we insist on the values of compassion, of generosity, the sanctity and preciousness of Life.

As in a dream, I sit in the lovely garden, in the Land of Promise. I hear the whir of passing cars, the call of the wild birds. A call to Freedom, to Life.

Once again, as in my childhood, sunshine softly touches the shadows of a darkening garden. The sun’s rays are almost transparent, at once present, at once departing. Echoes of the past are at once approaching, at once disappearing, surrounded by dusky silence.

The past, the horrors, were locked then in silence, behind a mute wall, broken rarely by incoherent fragments. Only decades later, did my father, of blessed memory, tell the story of how he entered into Janowska concentration camp and escaped the very next day, to freedom. I could almost hear him say to himself, as we heard him say at other times throughout his life, “this is not for me”.

“When we lined up I stood between two six footers, then we began moving toward the first gate. Looking back, the whole thing seems crazy. The other prisoners were wearing striped clothes. I had on the same jacket and pants I had been wearing for a year. Their heads were shaved, mine wasn’t…Near the gate I tried to angle myself slightly behind the man on my left so that he’d stay between the Gestapo’s line of sight and me. But I needn’t have even done that. As our policeman saluted and gave his report the Gestapo was busy talking to some other Germans. He didn’t even look. He just waved his hand without interrupting his conversation and we walked through.

When we got to the main camp entrance my heart was beating like a hammer…Then I saw that there were two Gestapo, not one. Walking forward I mentally intoned a prayer, trying to control my fear. “”L’yeshuatcha kiviti Hashem, kiviti Hashem l’yeshuatcha…Upon Thy help I hope, O Lord, I hope, O Lord upon Thy help”… we stood there waiting…Astounding as it was, the Gestapo didn’t seem too interested. One of them was exchanging a few words with the guard and I was afraid he might take a head count. But he didn’t. The gate swung open…In the morning when the two Gestapo had brought me here the sky had been a dark gray. Now the sun was shining…” (Dad’s memoir)

There is a story untold. A wordless understanding. A message which echoes wordlessly within the silence. A learning without teaching.

From where does one find the strength, the belief, the faith? The power of the dream. The knowledge of choice.

And what does one do, after going through the gate? How do we lead a life so as to be worthy of the freedom we have been given?

“to proclaim Your loving devotion in the morning and Your faithfulness at night” (Psalm 92:2)

Throughout our lives we will fight an urge of despair and desolation as we see the world of cruelty in which we find ourselves.

And what will be our response?

Again I am a child. It is The night of Passover

Our entire family gathers together festively. My father’s cousin, a nurse in the United States army who had found my father in Poland after the The War. My father’s niece, the only surviving member of my father’s large family, who came to New York with him on the First Boat. My father’s brother, whom he met for the first time upon arriving in New York. My mother’s twin sister, always by her side. My mother’s brother, who had served in the United States army during The War. And we, the children, grandchildren, cousins and second-cousins.

We gather around the holiday table, and the Seder begins.

“And the more one tells of the departure from Egypt, the more one merits praise.”

We sit at the table, listen to the story, ask the questions, wait for the answers.

With the passage of time, we ourselves will become the adults. In the ever-changing but always constant flow of time, we cherish the ritual, the tradition, the story and the lesson. From one generation to the next. An endless chain of time, of memory, of pain and redemption. What is the answer? What is the question?

The old, the young, the wicked, the wise, the stranger who is hungry. As we are all hungry, in our search for an answer. We do not know. We share the mystery.

Every generation has its tragedies and pain. Every individual will be faced with personal struggles, calamities, and distress. From where will come our strength? From where will come our fortitude, courage. The faith that perseveres in the face of life's struggles and calamity. The knowledge that all has meaning, purpose. How will we face the challenges of today?

To this day, I hear the beloved voice of my father as he led the Seder. And there was that moment when he would say Those Words, his voice echoing to the heavens, to eternity and back, in gratitude and agony, in thankfulness and grief. Together with the voices of our Nation reciting these words now. Together with so many of his loved ones who perished in the Holocaust. Together with those, who perhaps are now reciting the Haggadah with us, in The World to Come.

“ V’hi sheamda la’avoteinu v’lanu… And it is this promise that has been the support of our forefathers and of us all. For not one alone has risen to destroy us, but in every generation there are those who rise against us to destroy us, but the Holy One, Blessed be He, delivers us from their hands.” (Passover Haggadah)

Something about suffering leaves our souls open to the impossible, the miraculous. Finding ourselves alone at night, in the wilderness of desolation, the soul searches for The Source. Our hearts search for an answer. For the one truth that will lead to redemption, to purpose, to meaning, to life. Who knows One?!

“In my distress I called upon the Lord; I cried to my God for help. He heard my voice out of His temple, and my cry for His help reached His ears. (Psalm 18:6)

In the time of anguish, we remember from where is our redemption. As individuals, as a nation, we are reminded now.

“As a rose among the thorns, so is my beloved among the daughters… My beloved raised his voice and said to me, ‘Arise, my beloved my fair one, and come away. For behold, the winter has passed, the rain is over and gone. The blossoms have appeared in the land, the time of singing has arrived, and the voice of the turtledove is heard in our land.’ ” (Song of Songs 2:2-12)

The Rose. Initially but a bud on a stem of thorns. One day, we may almost not see the thorny base, as we gaze in wonder at the emergence of the rose, growing in beauty and splendor as the life unfolds, as the potential hidden within the bud becomes a reality.

The lovely garden is darkening, the sky now a deeper hue of gray. Faintly visible in the darkening gloom, the grass is still strewn with bright colorful balls, round hoops. Voices of children who only yesterday were here playing, echo in the deepening silence of the night. A reminder of the tragedy. A blur of white roses is faintly visible, a splendid profusion of soft white against a backdrop of dark green.

The song of a lone bird is heard in the distance. At once musical and cheerful, at once haunting and mysterious. What is she saying? Somehow, the life of nature continues. Indifferent to the woes of those inhabiting this land. Or perhaps comforting us, with the knowing that Life, tranquility, and serenity are here, surrounding us, available only for the asking.

Reach out your hand and you can touch it. Open your ears and you can hear it.

In the deepening silence, I listen.

“…One calls to me out of Seir,

’Watchman, what of the night? Watchman, what of the night?
The watchman said,

‘The morning comes, and also the night. If you will inquire, inquire; return, come.”(Isaiah 21:11-12)