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5781 Pesach

April 1, 2021
20 Nisan 5781
Pesach VI


Dear Friends,

As we approach the end of Passover for another year, we find ourselves in a different place than we were in last year. Yet, the parameters set out by the holiday remain the same year after year, no matter what is going on in the world around us.

Passover is a holiday with a clear structure, in part because we change some of our basic behavior for a little over a week. Some of us observe more, some less, but most Jews refrain from eating bread for a week. Now we even have gluten free matzoh options. We change a piece of our core behavior pattern. And as someone noted at the seder this year, the eating of matzoh for seven days is a biblical, not a rabbinic injunction. 

In this year where we are still observing the restrictions imposed upon us because of Covid, there is something different at work beyond those restrictions. It is something that is meant to occur every year, but, quite possibly, we are more able to recognize it.

Passover is a holiday that, much as Yom Kippur, asks us to reflect upon where we are on the journey. We reflect through the means of telling our story; at some seders, we go beyond our formation story to tell our individual stories.

Whereas Yom Kippur is a journey of personal reflection done in the presence of community, Passover is an opportunity to more clearly recognize that community is intentional interdependence. We reflect together as the story is told, the meal is shared, and the songs are sung.

Through this process that takes place around a table and across the internet, we are reminded of the greater world that we are a part of – a world that demands we be active participants. That injunction is right there in the Haggadah, as we invite all who are hungry to come and eat. And this year that invocation is as powerful as it has ever been. In this land of plenty and beyond, there are far too many who need our support as they combat hunger. 

We read these lines during the seder:

“Still we remember: It was we who were slaves…we who were strangers"

“You shall not oppress a stranger, for you know the feeling of the stranger,
having yourselves been strangers in the land of Egypt” (Exodus 23:9)

“When a stranger resides in your land, you shall not wrong him…
You shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.” (Leviticus 19:33-34).

Those words resonate like a tuning fork today, reminding us of our obligation to stand together with one another, recognizing our different journeys, yet each and every one of us created B'tzelem Elohim -- in the Divine Image.

The challenge of the Seder is to come out of it changed. That change may be large or it may be barely discernible. But the process is there to reawaken us, not simply to remember our story but to bear witness to the stories around us and to begin marching together to create a better future. Passover is here to remind us that we are on a lifelong journey with many roads off of the main one and our task is to find our way. We may not necessarily reach the promised land, but we are being pointed in the direction of a better tomorrow as we hold on to one another, supporting each other along the way.

Shabbat Shalom
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Rabbi Linda Shriner-Cahn

Tue, April 13 2021 1 Iyyar 5781