Dear CAA Family,
2022 seems to be cruising by! It’s difficult to believe that the 1st Night of Passover will be upon us soon. For American Jews, Passover is the most celebrated Festival of the Jewish year. Each year, relatives and friends gather for the Passover Seder(s). As in years past, The story of the Exodus from Egypt will be told, we partake in the cups of wine and the ritual offerings of the Seder plate and share in fellowship with our friends and family. Like many Jewish observances, Passover, or Pesach follows the same formula: “They tried to exterminate us. We prevailed. Let’s eat!”
But Pesach is different from the other Festivals. First, after coming out of a Pandemic that has held us back from in-person Seders, finally getting together after two years will feel very special (A Shehechyanu would definitely be in order!).
Why else is Pesach different? Of course, that is the first question of the Four Questions we recite during the Seder. And indeed, Pesach is all about questions. But it is also how you give the answers. There are many different kinds of Seders. Depending on where you are in the world or where you came from, Jews celebrate in different ways. I attended a Buddhist Seder once. In Iran, Jews dress in Biblical clothing and whip each other with scallions when they sing, “Dayeinu”! Jews in Romania fill a pillowcase with heavy objects and carry it around the table, with each person at the seder taking a turn. (And you thought hiding the afikomen was hard work!)
No matter how Pesach is celebrated around the world, the Torah states that a Seder only requires these three things in order to fulfill the commandment of observing Pesach: Eating the matzah, eating the bitter herbs, and telling the story of the Exodus from Egypt. But the other rituals we do are not just fluff! They are there to help us understand the meaning of Pesach: God redeemed us from slavery and suffering ‘with an outstretched arm,’ performing miracles along the way and that God continues to redeem and protect us in our own times.
The Rabbis who codified the Haggadah knew that to tell the Story effectively, it had to be told in ways in which all types of people would understand it. The ‘Four Children’ in the Haggadah might be different in age. But they are certainly different in how they comprehend things. And so, it is for us- each of us are learners of different levels and speeds. It is a fact that when we get older, we see the world with different eyes. Age and experience help us to understand spirituality and connection on a deeper level.
For most of us, Jewish literacy is limited to what we learned in Religious School. (For some, that was many years ago!) Because of this, our knowledge of Jewish religion, culture, values and history are stunted. Is Judaism only for kids?
The question I pose to you on the eve of Pesach is this: Can you personally make a choice to revisit Jewish learning? Can your curiosity bring you out of the confines of childhood, bringing you to a place of deep understanding and spiritual connection? If we are to fully observe Pesach, then we have to find the right way for EACH of us to understand the meaning of going from slavery to redemption. Remember- in a way, we are all slaves to something.
That said, never lose your inner child! Have a fun, happy, interesting and meaningful Passover this year.
Chag Kasher V’Same’ach, Cantor Colman Reaboi