Each year on Passover, we remember, and retell, the story of the Exodus from Egypt. At the Seder, the Haggadah serves as our guidebook as we retrace our ancestral steps from slavery to freedom. Among the many clever ways to engage us in this dramatic reenactment, the traditional Haggadah includes a passage about five rabbis who celebrated Passover together, and whose Seder served to awaken them to action for a better world. These five rabbis were an extremely diverse group:
1. Rabbi Eliezer was a brilliant elder, but his views were rejected by all other sages.
2. Rabbi Joshua was a poor man whose understanding of salvation included righteous non-Jews.
3. Rabbi Eleazar ben Azariah was a young sage who challenged the elitism of academic hierarchy.
4. Rabbi Akiba was the late-blooming scholar of means who called for the Bar Kochba revolt which became the final armed struggle against Rome.
5. Rabbi Tarfon was Rabbi Akiba’s friend whose debates with Akiba over matters of the law became legendary.
The diverse group of rabbis listed above are in the Haggadah to remind us that if we are going to be able to work together to create a better world, we are going to have to find ways to debate and argue with passion and vision while maintain a sense of respect and humility. As our celebration of freedom begins on Friday night, we might consider ways that we can come together – not just with those who think like we do – but also with those on the opposite side of political and ritual arguments.
It is my prayer that our Seder rituals this week will guide us in ways to free us from the shackles of obstinacy, inflexibility and closemindedness. Like the five rabbis of ancient times, it is upon all of us to find ways leave our tables ready to repair the brokenness of our world.
Chag Pesach Sameach – Happy Passover