Dear Congregation Beth Israel members and friends,
Shavua tov — a good week to you! This is a special week indeed, because it culminates not only in Shabbat, but also in Pesach, the festival of our liberation.
At Pesach we gather to retell the story which is most central to who we are. “Once we were slaves to a Pharaoh in Egypt, and the Holy One of Blessing led us forth from there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm…” The haggadah teaches that in every generation, one must see oneself as though one had personally been liberated — not just our ancestors once-upon-a-time, but also us, even now.
Every year someone asks me whether I think our people were actually, historically, slaves to a Pharaoh in Egypt. I suspect we probably weren’t — at least not in the way that our story indicates. But to me, that question misses the point.
What’s important to me is that this is the story which we have told about ourselves for thousands of years. This is the story around which Jewish peoplehood coalesced, the story that makes us who we are. Once we were enslaved, and now we are free. Once we lived in constriction, and now our hearts know expansiveness. Once we labored under cruel conditions (whether enslavement to a Pharaoh, or grueling credit card debt, or the emotional straitjacket of grief) and now we are given the opportunity to let our hearts open and to feel ourselves free.
I love Pesach not only because I love the songs (though I do!), not only because I love the foods (though I do!), not only because I love my memories of childhood seders with my extended Texas family (though I do!), and not only because I love the fact that this is a dinner party centered around storytelling, poetry, and song (though I do!) I love Pesach because its message speaks to me anew every year.
Where have you felt enslaved in the last year? And what changes would you need to make — in the tangible practical world, in your emotional world, in your mind, in your spirit — in order to experience freedom as we ring in Shabbat and Pesach this Friday night?
If you’re in need of a free, downloadable, printable haggadah for the first night of Pesach, you’re welcome to peruse The Velveteen Rabbi’s Haggadah for Pesach.
Join us on Shabbat morning at 9:30am for Shabbat and Festival morning services which I will lead. We’ll sing the usual prayers of Shabbat, plus the celebratory psalms of Hallel, and during the oneg (joyful kiddush) we’ll delve into a Torah study text about Pesach.
And join us on Shabbat evening at 6pm for our Second-Night Community Seder (which I will also lead.) Please, if you are joining us and have not yet RSVP’d, let the office know today! And please sign up for one of the many volunteer opportunities which happen around the seder; contact Steven Green and Rose Ellis to volunteer, or reach out to us at the synagogue office.
Wishing you joy in our journey toward liberation,