The Torah is written in a way that invites engagement. The porous nature of the ancient narratives and laws encourages debate as we seek to find meaning and direction in our lives. In other words, Jewish scriptures are meant to be lived, not simply read.
Nowhere is this tradition of scriptural engagement more broadly practiced than through the Passover Seder. Each year as we recount the story of the Exodus we do so through a dramatic, spiritual reenactment. We gather with family and friends and act out the story of our ancestral redemption with ceremonial foods and the script of the Haggadah. In this way, we try to apply the lessons of our past to our own lives today.
The central message in the Seder is this: It is our responsibility to use the lessons of our past to motivate us to address the ills of the world today and build a better tomorrow. The Haggadah reiterates this important message in as many ways as it can. Through the foods we eat, materials we read and the songs we sing, we remind ourselves over and over again that “until all are free, none are free.”
In today’s world, suffering, persecution, hatred and violence are plagues we face every day. These are the societal afflictions of our day, and while we may know that we have an obligation to lighten the burdens of those who are suffering, most of the time it is difficult to know exactly what to do.
While Passover cannot provide us with a single answer to this ongoing challenge, the customs and restrictions we observe during this weeklong festival can serve to inspire us to address the hardships that surround us. Here are some things to contemplate as we engage in the rituals that shape our holiday observance.
Consider the Seder meal as a teaching tool for social justice. The words of the Haggadah are designed to inspire us to take action. To that end, perhaps there is a place in each of our Seders this year where we can come up with a few personal goals for addressing the needs of the world around us.
Our dietary restrictions can also serve to remind us of suffering in the world, and I am not referring to the kind of suffering that comes from eating too much matzah. In depriving ourselves of certain kinds of foods, we have an opportunity to reflect on the fact that there are many who go without food every day. Thus, our sacrifices at the table can be a way of encouraging us to respond to the message in our Haggadah: “Let all who are hungry come and eat.”
If your family rids the home of hametz, please bring your non-perishable foods that are not Kosher for Passover to the temple. We will send the foods we collect to a local food bank. If you wish to contribute to a hunger program during this season, please consider making a donation to Mazon: A Jewish Response to Hunger. Information regarding such donations can be found in this bulletin on page 6.
Our Haggadah teaches us that it is our responsibility each year to relive the redemption of our past in order to help bring about a redemption for the future. Allowing our Seder rituals and dietary restrictions help us in this imaginative journey is just the beginning. What we do with what we learn, represents a beginning as well. Let us make a special effort this year to be instrumental in fashioning a bridge toward freedom, peace and happiness for all peoples.