This Week in Torah
Passover begins tomorrow evening and will continue for seven days until Monday, April 21. This week, instead of discussing our Torah portion, I would like to offer several ideas for how you can shake up your Passover seder.
1. Relate the symbols on the seder plate to what is happening in Darfur:
The six powerful symbols of the Seder plate embody the Passover story of suffering, liberation and renewal. These symbols resonate in the context of the genocide in Darfur, now in its sixth year. Since 2003, hundreds of thousands of Darfurians have been killed by the Sudanese government and their proxy, the Janjaweed militia. This Passover, in memory of those who have perished, and in honor of those still fighting to survive, we return to the desert. We remember our time of captivity in Egypt, the horrors of the Shoah and the victims of Darfur. We hope and pray for their liberation from bondage and for a renewal of freedom. And, we ask all gathered around our table at the seder to join us in the struggle towards that goal
2. The Four Questions & Action:
American Jewish World Service teaches: On most other nights, we allow the news of tragedy in distant places to pass us by. We succumb to compassion fatigue – aware that we cannot possibly respond to every injustice that arises around the world… On this night, we are reminded that our legacy as the descendants of slaves creates in us a different kind of responsibility – we are to protect the stranger because we were strangers in the land of Egypt.
And we add a fifth question: Aych nishaneh et ha-shanah ha-zot mi-kol ha-shanim? How can we make this year different from all other years?
This year, this Passover, let us recommit to that sacred responsibility to protect the stranger, particularly those vulnerable strangers in faraway places whose suffering is so often ignored. Let us infuse the rituals of the seder with action:
* When tasting the matzah, the bread of poverty, let us find ways to help the poor and the hungry.
* When eating the maror, let us commit to help those whose lives are embittered by disease.
* When dipping to commemorate the blood that protected our ancestors against the Angel of Death, let us pursue protection for those whose lives are threatened by violence and conflict.
* When reclining in celebration of our freedom, let us seek opportunities to help those who are oppressed.
3.Telling Your Story: think about how we you are enslaved (be it physically, emotionally, spiritually) and give thought to how to envision a brighter future for yourself:
Find a few quiet moments between now and Passover (“find quiet?” Ha!) to answer the following questions.
Where are you? When we begin to tell the story of the Exodus from Egypt, we must remember that we are instructed to “see ourselves as if we too went out from Egypt.” Thus, the historical Exodus is also a personal journey. Understood as a word, and not a name, Mitzrayim, Hebrew for Egypt, means “the twice-narrow place.” To begin, then, we must identify the location of our spiritual Egypt, the source of bondage and pain in our lives.
MITZRAYIM: In what part of your life do you feel as if you are in a narrow place, constrained and claustrophobic? Look for a place so constricted that you cannot turn around but can only walk forward from the painful past into an unforeseeable future. Do you feel enslaved to issues of health? Or loneliness? Lost love or the loss of a loved one? Are you restricted by concerns of career or lack of direction in your life? See that narrowness in your life, and you may have found your Egypt.
TEN PLAGUES: What are the disappointments you have endured because of your Mitzrayim?
THE PROMISED LAND: How would you hope your life will be different in the future?
MATZAH: What have you not been able to give proper time, attention and nurturance to, because of the concerns of your Mitzrayim?
YAM SUF/SEA OF REEDS: What are the obstacles that you must pass through in order to reach your Promised Land?
MANNA: What or who has sustained you during your journey through the Wilderness?
MOSES & MIRIAM: Who can be your role models and teachers in navigating this Wilderness?
GOD: What do you ask of this power/energy for goodness in order that you may be healed and able to carry forth to freedom in the Promised Land?
4. Make a Miracle Happen (to capture the attention of the kids)
Take a bowl of water. Pour pepper onto the surface. Without anyone seeing, place a small amount of dish soap on your finger. Talk about the miracle of the parting of the sea and place your finger in the water. The pepper will immediately separate on the water’s surface. The children will cry out, “Do it again! Do it again!” So put more pepper on the water. Again, place a small amount of soap on your finger. Place it in the water… Nothing will happen! MESSAGE: MIRACLES ONLY HAPPEN ONCE!
I hope you will think about integrating some of these ideas into your Seder this year. I wish you and yours a sussen Pesach!