The Seder Plate and its meaning
We uncover the three matzot on our seder table and announce, “Let all who are hungry, come and eat.” No sooner do we give credence to our bread of affliction than we turn our attention to those who may have even less. There are many still in affliction, who see no end to their enslavement. The matzah, which sits on our table, will be broken by us and hidden for the sake of games with our children. Our children will know it only as a bread of freedom. However, there are many who cannot offer this hope for their future generations. For what do they hunger? Starvation is a prominent problem in the world. One in nine people on the planet go to bed hungry according to the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations. Poor nutrition causes death for 3.1 million children each year under five years old.
Now we may think that this all takes place in third world countries but Feeding America, a network of food banks across America whose mission is to eliminate hunger, provides service to 46.5 million people in need across the United States, including 12 million children and 7 million seniors. I was unable to obtain the statistic for veterans.
Still physical hunger is but the beginning of need. There is a hunger for safety. "In a world torn by violence and pain, a world far from wholeness and peace, give us the courage to say ...” (Mishkan Tefilah pg 157) you will be safe from my hand. Are we willing to stand for peace: in our homes, in our schools, in our lands, both America and Israel? We all know too well that America has a problem with gun violence, domestic violence and racial divide. War looms large in both countries and will likely not dissipate as ISIL spreads across the Arab lands and beyond with media influence.
There is a hunger for security. Thirty five million human beings were transported around the world in slave trade according to the 2015 Global Human Trafficking Conference. Yes, slavery still exists. Even in America, human trafficking is a big commodity.
Then more deeply, there is the hunger for acceptance. The orange introduced to the seder plate in the 1980s by Susanna Heschel, daughter of Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, represents the LGBTQ community who hunger for the right to love and to be accepted as they are. Perhaps we need to find a proper representation for the misattributed meaning of the orange, the struggle for women to be able to fulfill their potential; not part of the misattribution, but I would include, and manage their own bodies. Acceptance is a hunger for people whether they are different because of race, religion, sexual preference, disabilities, poverty or just a bit quirky. We all need to be accepted but we turn aside from the 'other' forgetting that 'others' need acceptance.
Let all who are hungry come and eat. This year, as we begin our telling of the Passover story, let us not pass over those who are still hungry for their freedom. They are still trapped in Mitzrayim, in Egypt, in that narrow space. Ah, but we'll leave that to explore for another time.
Wishing you and yours a Hag Pesach Samayach
We Were Strangers
Rabbi Stephen Fox wrote, “Our core values push us to fight for the right of the immigrant to be treated fairly and justly. The Reform rabbinate has for years pushed for a comprehensive approach: improve border security and immigration law enforcement, provide for a just and fair path to citizenship for those in the country without legal documentation, provide basic protections for workers, and be inclusive of LGBT families.” Aside from the last piece being unrelated to immigration, Pesach is an appropriate time to remember that unless you are Native American, we are all immigrants Many of our ancestors were unwanted here, came in through back doors, with changed names and identities, attached to unrelated families.
When we left Egypt, Mitzriyim, meaning a narrow place, to explore who we would become in the openness of the desert, we left as a mixed multitude. There was to be one law for all among us, Israelite and Egyptian, tribesman and sojourner. As we continue to observe this holiday, which perhaps more than many, reminds us of what is like to be restricted, back in a narrow space, it is appropriate to think of the immigration issue.
Together Colorado is a non-partisan, multi-racial, multi-faith community organization of clergy from Pueblo to Fort Collins, that has come together to find support around issues of the day. By going to their website, you will find information on immigration and an online card for your congressman. If you are comfortable doing so, sign it. You are being given the contact information. Write in opposition if you are so inclined. It is good for all voices to be heard.
I hope your seders were meaningful. May your doors and hearts be open.
May the rest of the holiday be joyous.
As we head into the joyous month of Adar, many people look around and ask what they should be celebrating? Indeed, much of the world is at war, in poverty, dealing with unprecedented climate events, not to mention all the individual issues of inequality for women, the LGBT community, those with disabilities of all types, and as the King of Siam said in the King
and I, “etc., etc., and so forth”.
Now that I’ve depressed you, let’s turn our viewpoint on its head.
Did you awaken this morning? That’s a start! You have a new day to fill with memories of your choice.
Did you open your eyes and look around? How joyous to see all the colors of the world, the designs of nature and of
Was there a roof over your head when you opened your eyes? Then you are not on the streets by choice or necessity.
Were you awakened by an alarm clock, ringing phone or other sounds? Then you can hear. Lucky you! Listen to the wind, the birds, the voices of animals and people that share your world.
Did a voice awaken you or greet you during the day? Then you have companionship in your life. Even though someone is not constantly by your side, you don’t walk through the world alone.
Were you able to wash your hands, face, body today? Then you have access to water, probably modern plumbing – for others these are miracles.
Did you have to choose which clothes to wear? Then, in addition to having clothes, you have the ability to make decisions. You have the freedom to be independent in thought and in deed.
There are blessings we recite for all these and more; blessings for everyday activities. When we bless a mundane event, we elevate it to a higher level. In that way, our normal activities become reminders of how lucky we are, how grateful we can be.
The holiday of Purim celebrates the release of the Jews from physical destruction. When we are free from the threat of physical destruction, we can turn to emotional, intellectual and spiritual needs.
The holiday of Pesach celebrates the release of the Jews from physical suppression and from spiritual destruction. They became a free people able to rejoice in each day, able to recognize the designs of God, nature and man, able to listen to the trembling mountain at Sinai, able to walk together toward a future, able to gather manna, able to choose to follow the path to freedom or return to slavery.
Does this mean you don’t have the right to complain or be discontent? Of course, not. There are many who are truly in need. On the other hand, if we can learn to celebrate freedom of body, mind and/or spirit every day, life will become more joyous.
As we enter the month of joy (Adar) followed by the month of redemption, the time of freedom (Nissan), I wish you beautiful, healthy holidays. Days of delight.
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Community educator, choreographer, composer, performer, Becker, M.S.W., M.Ed., M.R.S., Ph.D., serves as rabbi for Temple Emanuel-Pueblo, cellist for Apples and Honey and is a Storahtelling Maven.
FOR MORE INFORMATION ON ISRAEL
WOMEN OF THE WALL http://www.nytimes.com/video/2012/12/22/world/middleeast/100000001969698/women-at-the-western-wall.html