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Parashat Tazria

April 12, 2024
4 Nisan 5784
Parashat Tazria
Leviticus 12:1 - 13:59

Dear Friends,

Passover is a little more than ten days away and I am obsessed. Being obsessed around this time of year is nothing new for me. My family has many jokes about how Passover is my favorite holiday and how it turns me into a madwoman as preparations happen.

But this year is different. This year it is not about the physical preparations, it is about the spiritual ones. Over the last number of years, the brokenness of the world has been made more visible by media; since October 7th there is a realization that much that was taken for granted as being a certain way can never be restored to what was there before. My prayer is that we find a way to bring things to a better place with more love and kindness and caring in the world. How will we tell our story this year? What parts of the seder will jump out at us in new ways, provoking questions that had never occurred to us? And in the midst of that, how do we make it work for the youngest among us with both honesty and joy?

Maybe we are not being honest with each other and ourselves. The world has always contained brokenness; suffering has always been with us - maybe not in front of our eyes - but with us. For so many of us, the seder has become a lovely meal, a time to sing together, to tell the story, to revel in the next generation. But if we look closely at the Haggadah, even the Maxwell House Haggadah, we are reminded of our obligation to one another. Yes, we were slaves and we do all we can through the rituals and foods at the seder to create a sense memory of something we never experienced. And yet, one of the very first things we do after dipping parsley in salt water is to break the middle matzah and invite all of those who are hungry to join us.

This act of breaking is not silent if we are paying attention; what was once whole is no longer whole. We are told to think of those who are still really suffering right at the beginning of the seder with the injunction that it is upon us to feed the hungry and welcome them in.

And so when I look forward to the Seder this year, my job as guide and leader has taken on different weights - different obligations - to tell our story even as we hear the story of so many others around us.  

The Ma Nishtana lays out why this night is different with the four responses. The first two answers about matzah and maror (bitter herbs) are about oppression and the last two about dipping twice and reclining are about freedom. But if we look closely, we discover there is an element missing. How do we get to this place of comfort and is it achievable? As we go through the Haggadah, we are going through the process of refracting our own experiences. Is true freedom achievable if we only look to our own journeys to the exclusion of others? Maybe if we look at the signposts of the seder closely, we will discover appreciation for all that we have, particularly as we celebrate spring and new birth, while also being reminded that we are not alone on this journey to redemption.

Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi Linda Shriner-Cahn

Wed, May 22 2024 14 Iyyar 5784