From the Rabbi - April 2011 Print

Dear Friends:

The first seder of Pesach this year will be celebrated on Monday, April 18.  Elsewhere in this newsletter, I’ve included a list of the items that we customarily find on the seder table.  Two of them are marked with an asterisk.  Do you know why?

Everyone knows that the seder is a retelling of the experience of the Israelites, first as slaves in Egypt, then as they were freed with God’s guidance and Moses’ leadership, and finally making explicit the lesson of Pesach: if we like freedom, it is our task to extend this boon to all other peoples.

All but two of the items of the seder table list have roles to play as we unfold the Passover story.  But what about the roasted egg and the green herbs?  They are never used during the seder; they are extraneous to the story of Jewish liberation.  Yet they are present.

The reason is that, originally, there were two holydays, one after the other, in the spring.  One was called The Feast of Matzot, and it was akin to our present-day Passover seder.  The other was called the Feast of Aviv (Spring) and dealt with the rebirth of nature in March and April.  The symbols of life and growth that the egg and greens constitute are remnants of this older festival that was overwhelmed by the historically-oriented Feast of Matzot.  They are vestiges of a much earlier celebration.  Maybe you can find a way to include them in your family’s celebration this year.

What is crucial, regardless of how you observe Pesach and what ritual objects you include in your celebration, is to remember and act on the fundamental syllogism and lessons of the holyday. There are four simple insights you need to have.

1. Slavery is a terrible institution.  Slavery stinks.

2. Freedom is far to be preferred.  Freedom is great

3.It would be selfish in the extreme if we enjoyed freedom      for ourselves, but refused to help make it a reality for others who are not now free. The task to which the seder calls every Jew is to be a bringer of freedom, whether to someone who is actually in chains or to someone who is enslaved by chronic illness, illiteracy, hunger, loneliness or any other condition that denies to a person the benefits of full freedom.

4.The reason that Elijah does not appear at our doors to announce the imminent arrival of the Messiah is that we have not yet completed our task of bringing freedom to the world.  When we have created a world in which freedom is the legacy of all men and women, then Elijah will stand at our doorsteps on  Passover and point down the street to the Messiah who is about to arrive.

For Phyllis and myself, for all who lead Congregation Beth Israel, we wish you the happiest possible Pesach and stimulation that will lead you to help change the world in the coming year.
                        
            

            Fondly,
            Kenneth D. Roseman, Rabbi