Please join us this Shabbat at Temple Sinai! The kiddush is sponsored by Jim Sherman in honor of the 62nd anniversary of his becoming Bar Mitzvah!
Connecting to the Torah portion, I will share the reasons why I am addressing the protest planned for this Sunday afternoon on the Boston Commons against the Israeli government’s judicial overhaul plan.
It feels like spring outside…well, almost.
The sunset is suddenly an hour later since we changed the clocks.
Basketball’s ‘March Madness’ is more exciting than ever.
We begin a new book of the Torah this week, the third of five, with parashat Vayikra.
Passover is nearly here.
This is a time for renewal, hope, and embracing life. Let’s underscore the value and feeling of freedom we celebrate at Passover!
Here is an all-new ‘Top Ten’ list of ways to make this Passover 2023 meaningful, fun, and redemptive!
Pesach Tip # 10
Where and with whom will you enjoy the seder this year?
Whether small and intimate or at a chaotically large family or community gathering, the people around the table really make the seder what it is. If you are a guest, optimize that role: offer to bring a bottle of superior kosher Israeli wine, or to come by the day before and help cook and set up. Ask what part – if any – the host would like you to lead. Do you have some family tradition that you love? Ask your host if you can make that happen at their seder.
If you are the host, think who will get along best or who might need a helpful neighbor as you make your seating arrangements. Ask guests for dietary restrictions/allergies. Consider inviting someone who may not otherwise have seder plans and make them feel truly “at home…”
Pesach Tip # 9
Leave a chair and a setting at the table for someone who did not, or did not yet, make it to freedom: a family member who was a POW, someone unjustly imprisoned, trafficked people, refugees, a family member struggling with addiction, Ukrainians— unfortunately, there is no shortage of people who lack the freedom we are meant to celebrate and appreciate on Passover.
Pesach Tip # 8
Snacks…Not only are snacks ‘legal’ during the seder, but they can become a defining feature that keeps people interested and engaged – as well as gastronomically thrilled – which allows you to dive deeper into the parts of the seder you really want to highlight. You might find that you really want to highlight the snacks in fact!
Consider putting out a salad bar for people to celebrate the freedom of having (limited) choices. Try some ‘mock’ dips for vegetables after they at first go into the salt water: mock chopped liver (made from peas or eggplant) or mock gefilte fish (recipes online). In general, dips and snacks are great, from guacamole to fruit salad or anything your creativity comes up with that’s kosher for Passover!
Pesach Tip # 7
As you clean house to prepare for Passover, remember that chametz is NOT dust.
If the Passover cleaning creates resentment, scale it back to cleaning out only the chametz. It can be gratifying to leave the dust behind! On the other hand, if you need some motivation to get your spring cleaning done to renew and revitalize your home, Pesach cleaning is the perfect opportunity!
Either way, let the cleaning give you a spiritual boost:
Rabbi Eliyahu Hoffmann cites the Maharash, a 19th century Chasidic master, to explain that “leaven” is symbolic of the kind of person who is fermenting within themselves, someone constantly bitter and angry at the world. Chametz, “leaven”, is of the same root as chamutz, “sourness.” Remove the “sourness” from your being as you clean out your chametz this year…
In related fashion, Sefer HaChinuch notes that leavening dough “puffs itself up” as it rises, becoming an apt symbol of pride, haughtiness and self-aggrandizement. This attitude has no place in serving God.
A side benefit of the requirement to clean out chametz is that you will inspect everything you own. The care we take to maintain our possessions can become a kind of bondage. Our possessions may become ends for us rather than means. As Hillel says in Avot 2:7: “One who increases possessions increases worry.” Checking all the objects one owns to see if any chametz found its way into them can reset our relationship to them, if needed.
As we eliminate our chametz this year, may we be blessed with true renewal – in our souls, in our homes, in our borders, and the world over.
Pesach Tip # 6
Do NOT read your entire Haggadah, or even very much of it all. Instead, use the symbols on the seder plate and each of the steps “in order” (literally, “seder = “order”) to invite discussion and reflection about the meaning of freedom for you and your guests. Look through several haggadot ahead of time for discussion ideas and fun conversation starters. A Different Night Haggadah is an excellent place to start. Choose one of the central themes of Passover, maybe two (maximum), to discuss in detail, for up to 15 minutes:
- Plagues – then. What are the 10 plagues in our world today?
- Ha lachma anya – “This is the bread of poverty. Let all who are hungry come and eat”…Are we sincerely inviting anyone who needs? Can someone who is food insecure experience ‘freedom’? Are you truly ‘free’ if others are hungry?
- B’chol dor v’dor – In every generation, each individual must see themselves as if they personally went forth out of Egypt. Ask each guest: “In what way are you going out from slavery Egypt this year into freedom?”
- You might try compiling a list of words and phrases that examine different aspects of what freedom is all about, like “angel cards” if you are familiar with these as dinner table conversation starters: Place a piece of paper with a different trigger word on it, one for each guest, and place in a wine glass next to Elijah’s cup. After each of the four cups (or other times), have a different guest select a word and then express what that word means to them in terms of “freedom”. Examples could be: “freedom from____”; “Freedom to_______”; “confidence”; “hope”, etc.
These tips should help get you started on preparing for Passover. Next week – the top five ways to help make this Passover 2023 more meaningful, fun, and redemptive!
Rabbi Michael Schwartz