Passover celebrates the concept of a personal God who cares about us and is the ultimate director of history. by Rabbi Benjamin Blech What is the single most important idea of the Passover Seder? For me, it’s always been captured…
Some surprising spiritual insights from the Rosh Hashanah challah. by Aliza Bulow All year long our challah is braided, but it is round for Rosh Hashana. What does the challah’s shape teach us about this special time of year? Rosh…
by Rabbi Ahron Lopiansky My dear child,
It is now a quiet moment late at night. After an exhausting day of Passover cleaning, you have sunk into the sweetest of sleeps, and I am sitting here with a pile of haggadas, preparing for Seder night. Somehow the words never come out the way I want them to, and the Seder evening is always unpredictable. But so many thoughts and feelings are welling up in my mind and I want to share them with you. These are the words I mean to say at the Seder.
When you will see me at the Seder dressed in a kittel, the same plain white garment worn on Yom Kippur, your first question will be, “Why are you dressed like this?”
Because it is Yom Kippur, a day of reckoning. You see, each one of us has a double role. First and foremost we are human beings, creatures in the image of God, and on Yom Kippur we are examined if indeed we are worthy of that title. But we are also components of Klal Yisrael, the Jewish People, links in a chain that started over 3,000 years ago and will make it to the finish line of the end of times. It is a relay race where a torch is passed on through all the ages, and it is our charge, to take it from the one before and pass it on to the one after. Tonight we are being judged as to how well we have received our tradition and how well we are passing it on.
“It is now 3,300 years since we received that freedom in Egypt. If we imagine the average age of having a child to be about 25 years of age, there are four generations each century. That means there is a total of 132 people stretching from our forefathers in Egypt to us today. 132 people had to pass on this heritage flawlessly, with a devotion and single-mindedness that could not falter. Who were these 133 fathers of mine?
How can we identify with the Jewish slaves today?
“In every generation each individual is bound to regard himself as if he had gone personally forth from Egypt.” – the Passover Haggadah
At Passover Seders each year, we recite the Haggadah’s timeless instructions to regard ourselves as having personally lived through the events of the Exodus. The Seder itself is designed to help us envision our participation in the story. We dip parsley into saltwater to remember the tears we shed in Egypt, and we munch on spicy, bitter horseradish in an attempt to replicate a little of the misery we experienced as slaves.
But how far can saltwater and horseradish really take us? For most of my life, when I pictured ancient Egypt, I thought of the 1956 epic film, The Ten Commandments. The sets were opulent, and I loved Anne Baxter’s gorgeous robes and headdresses as she played Nefertiti, queen of Egypt
After viewing ancient Egyptian artifacts, I don’t think I’ll ever think of ancient Egypt the same way again. Years later, when I caught the traveling King Tut exhibit, my preconceptions of ancient Egypt were confirmed. The craftsmanship of the artifacts was breathtaking. I knew that ancient Egypt wasn’t good for my ancestors, but it was hard to picture it as something really unpleasant. To the contrary, it seemed fascinating, advanced and beautiful.
Passover (Pesach in Hebrew) is known as the “holiday of freedom,” commemorating the Jewish Exodus from Egypt following 210 years of slavery. Passover is regarded as the “birth” of the Jewish nation, and its lessons of struggle and identity continue to form the basis of Jewish consciousness 3,300 years after the event.
Passover proves the key to liberating one family’s strained relations.
After I became observant a decade ago, I made some typical “overzealous” mistakes, and my relationship with my parents fractured almost beyond repair. Their synagogue wasn’t observant enough; their food wasn’t kosher. We fought about nearly everything; a strangling emotional dialogue of mutual condemnation.