A few weeks ago, on a Friday morning, I walked with a dear friend in the Atlanta Botanical Garden.
Where we live the world was covered with a winter coat of snow, but in Georgia the first stirrings of spring were underway. There were daffodils blooming, and leaves preparing to pop free.
But the thing that most drew my attention was one of the beds in the herb garden, filled with different varieties of parsley. The moment I saw the parsley plants growing, I tasted Passover.
The third step of the seder journey is karpas. We bless and eat something green, dipped in salt water. The green represents the new life of springtime, while the salt water represents the bitter tears of slavery.
There's a deep truth hidden in that bite of green. New beginnings may not come easy. Often they require hard work, and willingness to name and to take responsibility for what's been bitter.
We've all had moments when we feel as though whatever constraints we habitually inhabit are permanent. Maybe we've had moments of losing hope that whatever narrow place we're in -- depression, or tough life circumstances, or grief -- will ever be different.
But spring does come, even when winter feels most entrenched and unmovable. And Jewish tradition teaches that when we cry out from the depths of our lives' narrow places, there is One Who hears us and helps us to break free. And every year we retell the story: not as something that happened to them back then, but as something that is happening to us right now.
It's okay if the green of new life is bathed in salt tears, if our new growth is tender, if change sometimes hurts. That's exactly the flavor of the parsley dipped in salt water. Sharp, and intense, and a little bit salty: sadness for what was, mingled with hope for what's coming. Remembrance of the old, and embrace of the new.