Koli Kulanu Journal 4-1-19
What is your most cherished memory of Passover/Pesah? Do you recall laughing with family around the Passover table? Maybe it’s hugs from a grandparent, or seeing cousins, aunts, and uncles who you don’t see regularly, and realizing how great it is to have family. Maybe it’s the taste of a favorite food, or of matzah. The glow of the candles and the entire table. The victory of finding the afikomen. When you reach back into your memory, what comes up?
We have Passover/Pesah coming up soon. Along with each Jew, I look forward to gathering with dear ones around a table, reading the Haggadah, eating ritual foods, and experiencing the love of family and friends.
Passover/Pesah is a powerful holiday, and I’d like to challenge myself and each of us to think and plan so that our Pesah is as beautiful and powerful as it can be. It’s all about what happens at your table.
Passover is important to Jews, both in Israel and here in the US. Quoting from the Jewish People Policy Institute (disclaimer: Dennis Ross is a co-Chair):
Multiple studies show that Passover Seder participation is one of the most common practices of both Israeli and non-Israeli Jews. According to a 2015 Pew Research Center survey, 93% of Israeli Jews took part in a Passover Seder “last year.” According to the 2013 Pew study of Jewish Americans, 70% of U.S. Jewry has participated in a Passover Seder “last year”). In 2009, the Guttman Center for Surveys of the Israel Democracy Institute found that 90% of Jews believe that it is “very important” to participate in a Passover Seder. According to 2009 Israel Central Bureau of Statistics findings, 88% of Jews who self-identify as secular or Masorti (traditional) participate in a Passover Seder (the percentage was higher among religious and Haredi Jews).
Why do Jews consider Pesah to be so important? It can be the food, in fact creating Pesah memories should be through food! But not just food. It can be through learning, exploring the Haggadah and the many amazing messages of Pesah. It can be through song, bringing to the table the joy and diversity of song and music from Jews all over the world, from long ago until today. It can be through memory, thinking of our cherished memories from when we were young. With some planning, thinking and preparation, each of us can bring to our Pesah seder these elements to make new memories.
The most important is love. Pesah is a time to experience love. It can be love of parents and children, of grandparents and children, of siblings for each other, friends for each other, hosts and guests.
Think about how our Jewish heritage has been passed down to us from our parents, grandparents, and generations of ancestors. There were (and are) spiritual and ritual, such as the Temple, sacrifice, t’fillin, mezuzah, lulav/etrog, candles, wine. There was (and is) learning, such as Bible, Talmud, yeshivot, books, lectures. There was (and is) mystical experience, including meditation, singing, and mystical learning of kabbalah. All of these traditions draw on different senses and modes of perception: seeing, hearing, touching, standing, sitting, building, shaking.
I am proud to be a Jew for many reasons. One is that I am part of a people, chosen by God, to teach loving kindness and merciful justice to the world. Pesah commemorates a key foundation stone in our people’s history: hate for enslavement, love for freedom, treasuring a world where freedom means having responsibilities for love, justice, and ethical behavior.
At Pesah, we have the unique opportunity to learn to love, loving each other, loving our families, loving our traditions. Passover is a special time when, in addition to ritual, we love, taste, touch, hug, sing, laugh. We build memories and try to bring to our table memories from thousands of years ago. The bitterness of slavery. The wonder of a spiritual release suddenly in the night. The exhilaration of escaping those who would harm us through the miracle at the Red Sea. The uncertainty of what freedom means to people who have never had to make a decision or a plan because, as slaves, they could not, and now they must learn what freedom is and means. These are emotional and spiritual experiences; we don’t learn these from a book or a lecture. We learn through the loving talk and actions with those dear to us.
We bring these memories forward into our dining rooms, into our families. We teach ourselves and our children through love that God stands by the Jewish people in every generation, and that we have a responsibility to do acts of loving kindness and merciful judgment. We teach ourselves and our children through love that we are part of a glorious heritage that matters infinitely to the world, and that we must do our part to act as our tradition teaches us.
All the books in the world can’t teach this. Only we can teach this through the love we show to others, with our Pesah tables being a prime opportunity.
I’m challenging myself, and everyone in the Kol Shalom community, to make it your individual, personal mission this year to make this Pesah particularly meaningful and beautiful. Make this year one of the most memorable. Your family and friends will thank you and welcome your contribution and efforts. Best of all, you’ll experience the beauty and spiritual peace that you get from both the preparation and the evening experience itself.
I want to hear how it goes.
I want to be in dialogue with you. You can click here to send me a message, or you can email me at [email protected]. I am thrilled to hear from you, to get to know you better, and to hear your suggestions on continuing Kol Shalom’s growth and value to you.
Thank you for your help and for your part in our kehillah k’dosha, our sacred community!
Marc Lieber, President