During Purim, we are commanded to go HEAR the Megillah.
“One is required to hear the Megillah twice during Purim, once during the night and a second time during the day.”
While me may not read it ourselves, we do participate by making noise at Haman’s name. We boo and crank our graggers, and are thus active participants.For the Passover Seder, it is our duty to TRANSMIT the story… and while some of us, usually the host, lead the service, we all actively participate in keeping the story alive and telling it together.
The Maxwell House Haggadah (as well as many others) spells it out pretty clearly, and as we move around the table, we are each given cues. Some families create their own Haggadahs, to make the experience even more personal, and I think there is great merit in this… or, if you are using a more traditional Haggadah, it is well worth it to have your guests prepare and share ideas and thoughts. Anything to make the evening more alive and personal is a powerful testament to the power of Judaism… and the opportunities that arise from coming together for a holiday, over a meal, can be priceless.
For many, the bonds of our ancestors are translated into the bonds of modern society. We might bring up stress and depression… drugs and alcohol… online addictions, etc… anything that ensnares, entraps and enslaves us… anything that is like weighted bricks and stones on our shoulders.
For me this Passover, the slavery analogy I would like to discuss is our politics and opinions. We are more divided and divisive than I can ever recall. We are a slave to that opinion and that party, and for many of us… not all… subtlety, nuance and openness are long gone.
We are a slave to the Either/Or phenomenon. But perhaps we would better be served by the freedom of AND.
Life is not black OR white… it is black AND white.
We can be right AND wrong…
It is not Judaism OR everything else… It is Judaism AND other things.
Yes, there needs to be peace and harmony… love and understanding… acceptance… and a realization and recognition that following certain ideas (the Seven Noahide Laws, for example) will put each and every person in the same place eventually.
Human beings are nuanced… I can have liberal views on some things… AND more conservative views on others. But society doesn’t like that, it seems. Society is confused by that… and thus we get into some heated debates where people do NOT listen…
This is what makes the teachings of Rabbi Noah Weinberg (OBM) and his take on the Pirkei Avos so vital. Let us LISTEN WITH OUR EARS… NOT WITH OUR POSITIONS.
We are so LOCKED IN… bound by chains to our own ideas, that allowing those locks to potentially be opened with other keys never happens…
As we sit around the Passover table, let us HEAR everyone… without judgement… without immediately moving to our own position and getting defensive.
Let us be FREE from the YOU VS. ME… the EITHER/OR… and realize that a person… people… can have views that run the gamut and may even seem to be at odds with their own views on other subjects.
I can support elements of the Second Amendment AND still want certain guns banned. Yet if I post about wanting assault rifles banned… or better background checks… I get barraged with hate from the extreme right… called horrible names and told to move away.
I can support other people AND still condemn their leaders.
I can desperately wish for peace AND still support military action when safety and strategy require it.
Our children should be able to march and express their opinions AND not be attacked and viciously maligned.
Yes, my brain can hold multiple ideas at once, and deeply exploring those ideas… questioning myself… should be rewarded, not ridiculed.
Rabbi Paul Kipnes once explained to me that the reason the Jews stayed slaves for so long, without crying out for help, was that slavery was a pain they knew… and the fear of the unknown was so great, that it kept them trapped in the horrible pain they knew.
Part of today’s fear of the unknown is perpetuated by bullies and bullying… We dare not speak or post on social media, for fear of name calling and a violent firestorm, filled with a downpour of vicious, verbal rain. This is fear not freedom… and the whole idea of Passover and the continuous and uninterrupted telling of its story is to remind us of our freedom.
So as we sit at our Seder tables this year… let us listen AND participate AND let us all celebrate freedom AND truly be FREE!