We broke up on the day before Purim. A full moon later, I was not in the mood for a joyous Passover Seder. But the moon was full, the spring air clear, and so we gathered around a beautiful table, fragrant with familiar ritual. With great pomp and a flourish, we removed the embroidered cover, revealing the three matzot. Of these, the middle one was removed and then broken in two, one half quickly hidden, the other half, remaining alone on the plate, broken, waiting to be reunited with the other half. I watched this familiar ritual moment with new awe, suddenly remembering a saying from the Kotzker Rebbe, a Chasidic Master: “There is nothing more whole than a broken heart.” Silently, I sanctified my brokenness.
A broken matza on a Seder plate: They say this ‘break up’ comes to balance joy and sorrow on our road to personal freedom – the inevitable two sides of life. Some say the two halves represent this world and the world to come, the revealed and the hidden. Or maybe the broken tablets. Or maybe the brokenness of our hearts. The ritual is ancient, its roots forgotten, but not its visceral intensity and necessity.
It’s so difficult to safely mark the difficult places, to ritualize pain as simple and haunting as a broken heart, a sadness of soul. I find solace in myth, and in ritual. This broken matza, on this particular Passover, comforted me, gave my mute pain voice and gesture, blessed me with the great blessing of the fracture, the brokenness that opens the door to new possibilities.
I sang a different freedom song at the table that night, a prayer by Sinead O’Connor:
Thank you for breaking my heart,
thank you for tearing it apart,
now I’ve a strong, strong heart,
thank you for breaking my heart.
The moon was low in the sky when I left the Seder that night, as full as a whole Matza.
Printed in The World is a Narrow Bridge,
Stories that Celebrate Hope and Healing
Craig & Co. 2004