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188http://www.beth-israel.org/blog/2014/04/RabbiLyonsBlog-04_11_2014
Rabbi Lyon's Blog - 04_11_2014
04/10/2014 07:00 AM Posted by:

From the Desk of Rabbi David Lyon
April 11, 2014

 

Passover is here. It’s the Festival holiday that brings families together to retell the story that never grows old. Its themes are consistent with every generation that experiences the shackles of persecution and fails to realize redemption. This year, the anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Passover’s themes speak directly to us about the effort we are still making for freedom and equality. Congregation Beth Israel honors these ideals and endeavors to make them a reality.

                Passover’s theme is present in everybody’s life no matter their religious identification. It’s the universal theme that the Israelites experienced in the story of the Exodus. Since then, every people has hoped that they and their descendants would overcome their conditions to reach a time and place that was more hospitable to human development and greater peace. Today, we can’t identify a single nation that doesn’t struggle to overcome its internal and external challenges to their people’s well-being. It’s true in the United States as much as it is in smaller nations. This is a better world than our ancestors knew, but it isn’t the world our ancestors dreamed about for us. We will dream about a better world for our children, too, and to the extent that we are able, we must leave the world better than we found it.

                When you assemble around the Seder table, prepare to engage in timeless Passover themes with discussion about contemporary forms of bondage and ways to increase personal freedom. During the Seder, remember the people who are gone from life and what they did for the sake of freedom in their lifetime. What difference did they make? Are you following their example? Why or why not? Perhaps they were famous people who changed the world, or maybe they were your loved ones who changed yours. Speak of them, use their names, and honor their memories with conversations around your Seder table and in the deeds you commit to do.

                Every generation has the obligation to make a difference and their duty to do so is renewed with the retelling of the Passover story. So, this year, I urge you to resist the temptation to pare down the Passover story to a 30-mintue Seder or a 10-minute marathon. A 30-minute Seder is like reading the Cliff Notes to a great novel; it gets the job done but it leaves out the texture and nuance of a great story from which so much can be learned. Allow for debate and respect others’ opinions even if they disagree with your own. Classic Jewish studies depend on our ability to address both sides of an issue. It will surely take more than 30 minutes to address all the issues in such an important story and then to commit to the conclusions you reach.

                Remember that it doesn’t matter whether or not the waters really split the way it’s reported in Exodus; it matters that something so remarkable happened and that the epic story made indelible impressions on every subsequent generation. After 3500 years, it’s much more than a story; it’s our people’s literature that cannot be properly told in the Cliff Notes version. What part would you possibly ignore? What element of the epic would you skip in order to eat dinner sooner? Hunger is not our crisis, today. Tell the whole story of the Jewish people and you’ll be telling the story of every people who has longed for freedom and equality in a world that can be so much more.

                This Passover, stay long enough to join others in reciting the closing words “Next Year in Jerusalem” and mean what you say. Next Year may all be freer, because of what you learned at the Seder and also promised to do.

From my family to yours, Happy Passover!

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