When I was a kid I had several reactions to the Seder and the Maxwell House Haggadah from which we read…
It was way too long… and it seemed way too far away. The story… and Israel, that is… and especially the 3000 year-old Israelites and their journey from Egypt, through the desert and into the Land Of Milk and Honey.
I wanted to EAT… and I wanted to find the Affikomen.
As an adult, it took on a bit more significance, and when I had a family of my own, we created our own Haggadah, and tried to bring relevance, especially modern relevance to the table.
The kids still wanted to EAT… and find the Affikomen!
But what truly changed for me, was my JMI Men’s Trip to Israel (Special Shout Out to Rabbis Azriel Aharon and Aryeh Markman for their leadership and energy on this trip) and sitting on a bus and becoming friends with Rabbi Shlomo Seidenfeld. He added so much dimension and understanding to the trip, and when we got back, through continued learning, he shared what Passover really meant… The amazing transmission of a story, unchanged, for thousands and thousands of years.
These WERE my people… ARE my people… This is WHO I AM.
Next year in Jerusalem became This Year In Jerusalem… literally! It is also the name of the blog I started, recounting that once-in-a-lifetime trip! Please feel free to check it out and hopefully feel inspired.
The importance of TRANSMISSION… sharing a story with family and friends became the crux of the Seder table.
But it also became about finding my own, personal freedom… For all of us, hopefully, to find our freedoms… freedom from our own slavery and hesitations…
We enslave ourselves in many ways.
In our minds with fear and doubt.
In our bodies with over eating (or under eating) and addictions.
With things… physical, material things… and a focus on wealth and fame.
We are slaves to Fashion… to Facebook… to our iPhones or exploding Samsungs…
We need to STOP being slaves!!!
I love the idea of Freedom Energy! How amazing would it be to live that every day?!
Well… the great thing is, Judaism gives us so many opportunities to do just that… To stop, take stock and start again.
The idea of Teshuvah, to RETURN to who we really and truly are, is something that can be done at any time and any place.
And yet Hashem and the Jewish calendar give us several “holidays”/opportunities to do this as well.
Pesach is one of those golden chances. It is about rebirth and redemption. It is no coincidence that many Reform Shuls… and no, you will most likely not get this in the Chood… break out Bob Marley’s “Redemption Song”!
“But my hand was made strong
By the hand of the Almighty…”
“Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery
None but ourselves can free our minds.”
It is yet another time in the Jewish calendar to start again.
“Even though it’s complicated
We’ve got time to start again.”
(“Start Again” by Teenage Fanclub)
You know me by now… I need to bring a little secular music into the equation!
According to Shlomo, physical freedom is “irrelevant if we are not able to free ourselves from our negative impulses and if we don’t believe that we have a higher purpose.”
So how do we get there? According to him and to our Sages, we can get there by fulfilling the 15 Steps of the Seder.
According to Aish.com: “… the Sages carefully wrote a book outlining 15 steps to freedom. It’s called the Haggadah. The Sages say that Passover occurs on the 15th of Nissan (the Jewish month), to teach us that just as the moon waxes for 15 days, so too our growth must be in 15 gradual steps.”
You can read the specific article here.
Even if we are not personally utilizing or living them, many of us are aware of the various 12-Step programs out there. The lessons are powerful and can be used by almost anyone.
The point is this… In order to move forward we must take actual steps forward…
We must literally walk out of slavery and the desert, knowing that what awaits us is glorious and beautiful.
It takes steps forward to break chains… to leave limiting beliefs behind… to find AND fulfill our higher purpose.
Perhaps the miracle of Passover, aside from the obvious, is that we get to sit at a table with family and friends… to share a beginning… a history… a journey… and to have a guided Seder that will lead us to great heights… that will truly set us free!
The genius of Judaism is that it is all right there for us… a blueprint… a guide… a step-by-step approach to being free and to living a fulfilled, meaningful and wonderful life.