Monday, March 25, 2013

Passover Message

I am writing to you with a few hours to go before we begin this year’s Passover. I want to say that this is a truly communal experience on many levels. Think about all the families who are hosting Passover Seders and have been preparing for them for weeks. I especially wan to express my appreciation this congregation’s Sisterhood for organizing the community Seder tomorrow evening. God bless them for their devotion and their efforts. Then there are those of us who have contributed to these individual Seder meals and are invited guests. They all help to create the proper festive mood for Pesach.
Of course we have done our best to clean our houses of hametz. The test is not to eat matzah for eight days. Remember the mitzvah is to eat matzah on the first night of Passover. The real mitzvah is to abstain from eating any hametz or leavened products for eight days. The idea behind this is that we are supposed to cleanse ourselves of the spiritual leaven that impedes our ability to rise to the best of ourselves in life.  In addition the tradition tries to help us enter the time machine to feel and imagine that we too were slaves in Egypt. Some of us who came from lands less hospitable to Jews have experienced that condition before we immigrated to America. Yet most of us have never experienced living in a country where being a Jew was a liability, a danger to life and limb. So we must find other ways of identifying with our ancestors. Servitude to the Pharaoh is likened to slavery to the things that too often seem to define our lives. What this year’s Passover could be about for us is to take a good look at what we need versus what we want in life. The choice is up to us to reevaluate the hametz or the leaven inside ourselves of what is fluff versus what is truly essential to our meaningful existence.
There is also another aspect of Passover I want to emphasize to you in this message which is to remember that this holy day does define us as a people and it also highlights our values as a people  whose ethics do not abandon our obligation to others not of our faith. The Torah tells us that along with Israel an “erev rav” a mixed multitude came up with us out of Egypt. I would like to believe that we were hospitable to the strangers and took them in as if they were our own.  How often did that value resonate through Jewish history that we would take in the stranger even when in too many episodes in Jewish history others cast us out into the darkness? It is our highest moment to welcome the stranger in our midst at our Seder tables and to practice what we preach that we are a welcoming and compassionate people.
Finally, let’s talk about what the phrase “Next Year in Jerusalem” means?  The haggadah narrative starts with “Avadim Hayinu” We were slaves in Egypt and it concludes with L’shana HaBaah Byerushalayim. We begin with the degradation of slavery and complete the Seder singing for the hope of the redemption of the Jewish people. It is God that guides our steps and it is the belief in God who has sustained our memory and our passion to remember the journey that we the Jewish people still travel after all these years.
I know that we will delight in the Passover culinary delights and the discussion of the recipes that made for the most delicious Seder meals. May I respectfully suggest that we reserve some segment of our Seder experience to discuss the timely and timeless matters of the soul and the moral conscience that each of us as individuals and that we as a Temple community are bound to as we embark upon this Passover journey.
I hope to see you at morning services Tuesday at 10am and on April 1st at 10 am for Yizkor.
On behalf of Linda, Leah and myself, I wish you a Zisen Pesach, a joyful and insightful experience.
Rabbi Brad Bloom

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