I HAVE A longstanding relationship issue with the shank bone on the seder plate. It is not there for eating. It is there solely to remind us of the Pesach lamb which we used to eat in Temple times.
Furthermore, the Shulchan Aruch stipulates that we should not eat for a while before Pesach so that we have an appetite for matzah. When we start the seder, we are a bit peckish.
Sitting at the seder, I see the shank bone on the plate. It is roasted. It glistens in the light. I can see, almost feel, the texture of the meat as it clusters crunchily on the bone.
But I stay here, it stays there. I try to face it down and it reaches out to me, an outstretched arm of temptation. I pretend to ignore it as I nibble parsley dipped in saltwater but this doesn’t work.
And in truth, this tantalising food sums up the whole diaspora issue. Since the Romans destroyed our Temple some 1,900 years ago, we have had no access to the powerf u l s y mbolism of the sacrifices, and the light o f God’ s presence in the world is dimmed. Andfor1,900 years, the human condition has been one of unsatisfied longing. Isaiah (2:3) prophesied that our Temple would be a source of spiritual enlightenment for the whole world, a gentle influence transforming swords into ploughshares. But while it is not restored, the bad news continues to trickle in from Gaza, Darfur, Iraq, Tibet and Afghanistan. The world hungers in vain for peace and inspiration. Maybe next year we’ll be in Jerusalem. There’ll be world peace. God’s love will be palpable and visible. And I’ll get to taste that shank bone. RABBI DAVID LISTER Edgware United Synagogue