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April 22, 2016  RSS feed
Rabbinically Speaking

Text: T T T

The Seder ascent

By RABBI DANIELLE UPBIN Cong Beth Shalom, Clearwater

I recently read a motivational statement on the wall of my gym. It said: “You don’t have to be good to start, you just have to start to be good.” Yes, that quotation applies to anything from bench presses to college degrees. But to the Seder? Yes. Seder, when done well, also has a starting point, a finish line, and a feeling of success.

There are 14 solid steps of the Seder and a 15th that takes us beyond. Fifteen is a significant number in Judaism: Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook taught that 15 holds meaning for us: the number of steps in the ancient Temple and the Biblical Songs of Ascent. It is also the number of nights leading up to the full moon, the time of our celebration. Later in the Seder, there are 15 stanzas in Dayuenu, describing the steps taken from leaving Egypt until building a life in the Land of Israel. We might suggest that the number 15 represents a spiritual movement upward – an ascent. (See, The Night that Unites, Passover Haggadah, Urim Publication, p. 41)

As many of us might have experienced at one time or another, it is common practice to abrogate the Seder journey after the meal, thinking, “It’s getting late. So what if we don’t make it to the end?” But, given the spiritual value of taking each step, we might consider plowing through to the end this year. Tzafun – searching for the afikoman, and thus reuniting the hidden and revealed. Barech – a nod to the chef, to the earth, and to God for our nourishment. Halle – songs of joy and freedom (any genre will do), and Nirtzah – owning the growth that has resulted from the journey.

Our parting words “Next Year in Jerusalem,” are not just the completion of the Seder, but a springboard that offers the most possibility, as we commit to spreading the message of freedom and grace to people and places beyond our Passover table.

May the “Seder Ascent” inspire you to start a meaningful journey of your own at your next Seder. And may you reap the benefits of each well-placed step.

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. The views expressed in the column are those of the rabbi and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Jewish Press or the Board of Rabbis.

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