Happy Passover



Over the course of my six-plus decades, I have experienced many sedarim (plural for “seder”). At the beginning of my life, they were traditional Orthodox seders, led by my grandfathers. They were a mixture of Hebrew and English.

As I became a teenager and involved in youth groups, I remember chocolate seders and ones that focused on freeing Soviet Jews.

In college and later in rabbinical school, there were inserts and additions…a fifth cup of wine…or a fifth child…or an extra symbol on the seder plate. Each was an attempt by some group to highlight a particular “bondage” that existed.

By the time I became a rabbi – and edited my own haggadah – I created one that would allow a seder to speak to multiple generations sitting around the table. I imagined a seder filled with both silly antics – videos being played, karaoke to Passover tunes, plague gimmicks – all intended to keep young children engaged…and not bore those adults who didn’t connect with the traditional story.

Throughout these experiences, the one constant was…change. Every seder, every haggadah was different, focusing on some aspect of freedom. In college, I remember participating in a freedom seder, that presented parallels between the Jewish struggle for freedom and the African-American struggle for freedom. As a rabbi, I shared in a seder that – using the traditional imagery – highlighted the bondage we were creating by destroying our planet’s environment. And many years, the enslavement that hunger brings to a person has been a focus of my family’s seder. In addition, South African apartheid, nuclear arms, prejudice, ignorance, global warming, anti-immigration…all have their place at the seder table.

This year, as you sit down to celebrate Passover – whether at a traditional seder, an abbreviated seder, or just a family meal…take time to consider that which enslaves you, as well as that which enslaves us – whether the “us” is your family, groups within your community, your country, or your world. Passover’s message is that God is with us BUT we have to do our part. We have to be willing to leave. We have to be willing to cross the Sea. Only then can we truly be free.

So, once we identify that which enslaves us, what will WE do to break the shackles and allow those in bondage to be free. 

May this Passover be one of introspection and of resolution. And next year…may all be free.