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March 27, 2015  RSS feed
Rabbinically Speaking

Text: T T T

Find contemporary meaning in elements of Seder

By RABBI JACOB LUSKI Congregation B’nai Israel, St. Petersburg

As we approach the celebration of Passover, it is hard to disassociate current events from ancient ones.

While our People are not enslaved, the scourge of slavery still exists. Although there is no current Pharaoh for a Moses to confront, the world still has many oppressors who regard themselves as all-powerful and who are as hard-hearted as any ancient tyrant.

Passover is an annual opportunity to rejoice in our ancestors’ liberation. It is also a time to emphasize not only from where they came, but what they became. We take no pleasure in the fact that our national beginnings were in slavery. We rejoice, however, in the religious and moral compass they gained and how their descendants enriched the world.

The symbols of the Seder are intended not merely to remind us of the place where we began, but to urge us on in our quest to become the best that is within our grasp. Because we remember oppression, we must be doubly sensitive. If we condemn hard-heartedness, then we must demand of ourselves that we be especially compassionate. If we respond to the punishment of the Egyptian oppressors by diminishing our cup of joy and sympathize with those who suffer, even those like Pharaoh who embittered our ancestors’ lives, we must be scrupulous in showing compassion when we can and careful in the way we treat others.

To celebrate the past without translating what we learn from it into lessons for our own lives is to miss the essence. It is because the past is real to us that we are able to use it to help us shape the present and the future.

May you enjoy your Seder. I urge you to use the Seder elements to spark discussion to derive contemporary meaning. Who is today’s Pharaoh? Who might be the Moses of our age? What are contemporary plagues, and who suffers them? What is the difference between freedom and liberty? What do we mean by “redemption”?

I also hope that you will come to your synagogue to share Yom Tov with your Congregational family. Help to make this Pesah a vehicle for communal celebration, universal liberation and personal sanctification.

Hag Kasher V’sameah – a joyous and meaningful Passover!

The Rabbinically Speaking column is provided as a public service by the Jewish Press in cooperation with the Pinellas County Board of Rabbis. Columns are assigned on a rotating basis by the board.

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