Passover is usually one of my favorite holidays. I love the ritual of preparing the house, the smell of the food, and the joyous atmosphere at the seder table. But this year is different. Passover began only three days after the one-year anniversary of my father’s suicide.
Imagine you are running for your life. Your survival depends on the mercy of strangers. Your home is in ruins and your neighbors have fled. There is no turning back. When you reach the crowded camp, you join thousands who ache for a life they will never know again.
Whoever saves one life in Israel [i.e., of a Jew] is as if he had saved an entire world.
– Mishnah, Sanhedrin 4:5
Whoever saves one life is as if he had saved an entire world.
When I learned that I would be spending my spring break in McAllen, Texas, with Temple Sinai, volunteering with migrants fleeing from violence in Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador, I didn’t know what to think.
Parashat Ki Teitzei includes a rich and varied collection of directives that serve as a partial blueprint for behaviors and norms to create the emerging covenantal culture. As Professor Adele Berlin notes, “Issues pertaining to women are prominent in this parashah. . . .
For more than 3,000 years, Jews have gathered to retell the story of Passover and celebrate our deliverance from slavery in Egypt. In the Book of Exodus, we are not only told to observe Passover (Exodus 12: 17); we also are taught that, “In every generation all of us are obliged to regard ourselves as if we ourselves went forth from the land of Egypt” (Exodus 13:8). We must not only gather for seder and replace chametz with matzah, but we also must take ownership of the Passover narrative and experience it anew each year.
Last week I had lunch with a rabbi friend who told me he’s in the midst of preparing four different sermons for the upcoming High Holidays.
The Land of Israel is a ghost throughout the haggadah, even as it is a constant presence in the background of the Passover story. Liberation isn’t solely freedom from Egyptian bondage; it’s also intentional direction toward Sinai and the ultimate arrival in the Promised Land. Yet Eretz Yisrael itself is rarely mentioned in the haggadah text.
With more than 500,000 people displaced to neighboring countries by the violent civil war in Syria, the Jewish Coalition for Disaster Relief (JCDR) has opened a fund to provide humanitarian aid to the refugees.
On Passover, we confront a central, inextricable tension: we must simultaneously hold the joy of our exodus from slavery in Egypt with the persecution we see all around us in the world. For many centuries, that persecution was directly experienced by Jews themselves.