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Oli – the joy of Pesach – The Australian Jewish News

Some years ago, while visiting the Polynesian Cultural Centre located on Oahu’s North Shore, I acquired a “humanity bracelet”. But aside from my wedding ring, I had never before and have not since purchased jewellery for myself. I was taken, however, by its appearance, its message and its educative potential. The pewter bracelet, brushed with silver, featured seven words – values shared by people throughout the chain of Polynesian islands and coincidentally, with Jews everywhere and throughout history.

Among the values are courage, love, honour, unity, kindness, family and joy (oli-oli).

The literature packaged together with the bracelet understands “joy” (oli-oli) in this way: “joy puts the world and life into perspective. Deeper than happiness, it resides in the heart and soul – peace and love are the perfection of joy.”

Pesach is known as z’man simchateinu, the “season of our joy”. But joy at Pesach, like joy in life itself, isn’t always immediately apparent. It comes through effort. It comes with time.

One bright spark once said of Pesach – the cleaning, the changing of dishes, the disavowing of chametz, the rituals, the seder and its clean up, is more “oy” than “joy”. It is true. We can get so wrapped up in the “doing” we can forget why we do it at all.

On one level, we observe Pesach to commemorate freedom, our people’s ascent from “sorrow to joy, from mourning to festivity, from darkness to great light and from servitude to redemption” (Mishnah Pesachim 10:5). But we “make Pesach” for another reason too, a reason that is less esoteric and far more personal: to attach us to our families, to our history, to our people as, in the space of just one week, we reaffirm our historic and filial bond to our ancestors and to one another. And here is where joy resides.

With all that we have been living with these last almost three years; sickness, isolation, war in Europe, floods nearer to home, should we not make time for the joy of Pesach?

Rabbi Gary Robuck is the interim rabbi of Temple Beth Israel in Victoria.

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