Only hours before the first Seder

posted 10 Apr 2017, 10:36 by Lodzer Shabbat-Bulletin

Where in the World is Rabbi Eli - Moscow


Well... kind of. That's where I am as I write this message though it's not where I'm going to be when you read it.

Visitors usually rave about this posh city, where palaces are going all-out to intimidate and impress, and any subway station exhibits museum quality art.

Personally, I never learned to like it. Not even a little bit, I think. Having spent here a significant portion of my dissident youth, I always found it somewhat scary. But nowadays Moscow, with its own aggressive culture of social Darwinism and indifference to others, is a source of blessing for me. In a bizarre way, of course.

I remember the days spent in the great choral synagogue on Arkhipova street where on any good day you'd find more KGB informers than minyan participants, and more hidden microphones than Siddurim.


Since the fall of the Soviets, it came back to be Jewish property, and became totally grand. Somehow, even that didn't endear the city to me.


In my mind, Moscow is so deeply innately associated with suppression and crushing human will, that all the beauty and even supposed nostalgic triggers do nothing for me. I might as well be standing on the Red Square on a grey rainy day.


Throughout my childhood, we used to regard ourselves as slaves more than prisoners. Little wonder Passover held such a special place for us, children and adults, among other holy days.

The smells, the stories, the taste of the Seder were smells and tastes and stories of freedom. So close you could almost touch it, you really believed it entirely when you exclaimed: "This year in slavery, next year, free! This year, here, next year, in Jerusalem"!

And whenever I happen to be in Moscow, I count my blessings. I think of an alternative history, one where I could still be stuck in, living in some sort of alternative life that the real me, here and now, can only fathom as a macabre cauchemar. There are so many things I am grateful for in my life. This is one of the big ones.

Leaving Russia just before Pesach is every bit as relevant and appropriate as ever.

How do you count your blessings?

Please do it. Take a moment from all the pre-yontef running around, and cooking, and scrubbing, and take a deep full breath, and remind yourself of the big things you are grateful for, and the small ones too, and sit at the Seder with your loved ones as a free person, royalty. Do it for yourself. Do it for your family and friends.

Have a wonderful, restful, inspiring Chag.

See you over yontef from Italy (in Italy, perhaps?).

Gut yontef,