April 4, 2023
Dear Friends,
Tomorrow evening we will join millions of people around the world as we celebrate Passover and the story of our liberation from slavery. Passover is the most widely observed Jewish holiday in America and I can understand why: The festival is observed at home and not in the synagogue; it is a time for families and friends to come together and share a meal; children are the focus of the seder; the story is incredible; and the many rituals are engaging and thought-provoking. The only downside, in my opinion, is the
gefilte fish jelly. (Can we all agree on this?)
One of the many reasons why I love this festival is that we are given the freedom and flexibility to make it our own. While the flow of the seder is set, each of us, for example, can select readings outside of our haggadah to introduce for discussion, or we can add new customs into our own observance that fellow Jews from around the world find meaningful. There is no reason to simply read each word from the haggadah you have on hand. Mix it up and keep it fresh.
One of the haggadot I discovered recently is titled, “The Yada Yada
Haggadah” and it’s based on Seinfeld. I can assure you this will not be our primary haggadah tomorrow night, but as a fan of the show, I know I’ll be reading the following passage:
Do you know why they call it Passover? God told Moses that the Israelites should mark their doorposts with lamb’s blood. So that He could “pass over” their houses. And spare them from the plague of the killing of the first born. My question is: Who was put in charge of telling everyone? That’s a big job. There’s a lot counting on that job. What if someone isn’t home? How did they tell them? Did they leave a note? Probably not. The Egyptians could see it. Would have ruined the whole plan. Did they just take the liberty of putting lamb’s blood on the door? What about when that family gets home, sees blood all over their door? “Honey, do you see this? Someone put blood on our door. Someone’s out to get us! You better get off the couch and wipe this off.” “I’m busy! Have our first born do it!”
I love that we are allowed to infuse a bit of humor into our seders. While we recount the narrative of our people and talk about present day issues that relate to the themes of the seder, the primary purpose of the ritual, for me, is to engage those I’m celebrating with and keep it lively. I plan on doing just that at our 2nd Night Community Seder on Thursday.
May your seders be delicious and full of nourishing conversations. May they be engaging and fun. And most importantly, may we be grateful for our own freedoms and be strengthened to help others feel the same.
And now, it’s time to prepare my mom’s charoset recipe, my favorite seder food.
Chag pesach samech,
Rabbi Joshua Samuels