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From the Rabbi's Study

APRIL 1, 2024

WAITING ON PASSOVER

"The idea that it’s possible to move from slavery to freedom

and from darkness to light

and from despair to hope-

that is the greatest Jewish story ever told.”

Rabbi Sharon Brous

Passover arrives late this year, much later than most of us are currently and emotionally prepared for. As the trees begin to bud and our Christian friends move through their Easter Celebration there is a feeling of need for the comfort of the Passover Seder.

Since October there has been much stress and fear in our Jewish World. It is the distant light of Passover that shines now. Like the initial sight of the lights of a ship far from shore holding precious goods, the faint light of Passover brings anticipated hope and joy in its arrival.

What makes Passover so special? Aside from the obvious gathering with loved ones, the symbolic telling of the story of Passover allows us to tap into the themes of hope, light and freedom that are so central to our Jewish history and identity. To take the time to remember the miraculous journey of freedom from slavery speaks to each person who is around the Passover seder table.

As we wait on Passover, I propose we spend the next couple of weeks asking ourselves what Passover means to us. Are we able to identify and find gratitude for our own freedom? Do we still feel free? Or have we become crippled by fear? Are we not living free at all?

If our own fears are causing us to feel unsafe or trapped, we can take this time to share our fears, disclose them, and expose them to the light. The famous rock singer Jim Morrison stated that you must “Expose yourself to your deepest fear; after that, fear has no power, and the fear of freedom shrinks and vanishes.” Perhaps, while we wait on Passover we can share our fears with each other. And we can share any other emotions or situations that make us feel unfree.

If everything is in Divine Order, then it is possible to assume that G-d has arranged for this late placement of Passover to allow for all of us to come to a point where we can embrace the highest and most potent state of freedom while sitting around our Seder this year.

Things may not be going the way we planned in our own lives. We may be hit with unexpected challenges and grief. These unexpected challenges and grief only impact our freedom when we fail to recognize the true freedom of our own reaction to these things. If we take this time to act in a positive manner, to embrace and support ourselves, both emotionally and mentally, then we remain free. Our deterrence to freedom lies when we surrender our gift of choice and let our emotions bring us to a state of bondage and anger and pain. We become frozen in fear. We imprison ourselves. We, however, hold the key to the emotional choices we make.

Let’s all take the next few weeks to release ourselves from any conscious mental and emotional bondage that is keeping us enslaved. Let’s use our time going out into the world and preparing the most beautiful Seder ever. Rabbi Joseph Gelberman, a Holocaust survivor, passionate about embracing life, reminded us “We don’t live in a waiting room...we wait in a living room.”

 

So...let’s LIVE while we WAIT for PASSOVER.

WE ARE STRONG

 

By Rabbi Jenny Steinberg-Martinez JD CHT

The peaceful Buddhist country of Tibet was invaded by Communist China in 1949. Since that time, over 1.2 million out of 6 Tibetans have been killed, over 6000 monasteries have been destroyed, and thousands of Tibetans have been imprisoned. When the Dalai Lama’s Tibetan Sanctuary, was invaded by the Chinese, and the surviving monks were sent out into the world to survive, he called upon Jewish leaders for advice. Why? It is because we are strong in our identity and have remained true to ourselves in a life of Diaspora. With our strength we have managed to touch all four corners of the globe with our wisdom, joy, and traditions.

 

The summer time in the Western World brings celebration, barbecue, swimming and fun. It seems a strange time of year for our most somber holiday. Tish B’ Av, the sacred fast, arrives this month to remind us of the 9th day of Av a day when a number of disasters in Jewish history occurred, primarily the destruction of both Solomon's Temple by the Neo-Babylonian Empire and the Second Temple by the Roman Empire in Jerusalem.

 

Tisha B'Av is regarded as the saddest day in the Jewish calendar and it is thus believed to be a day which is destined for tragedy. The observance of the day includes five prohibitions, most notable of which is a 25- hour fast. The Book of Lamentations, which mourns the destruction of Jerusalem is read in the synagogue, followed by the recitation of kinnot, liturgical dirges that lament the loss of the Temples and Jerusalem. As the day has become associated with remembrance of other major calamities which have befallen the Jewish people, some kinnot also recall events such as the murder of the Ten Martyrs by the Romans, massacres in numerous medieval Jewish communities during the Crusades.

 

So how do we honor this day with an appropriate balance of reverence and optimism? This is how; we claim our Diaspora as a beginning and not an ending. We claim our Diaspora as a call from God to persevere in the world and be a force of Torah for all to experience. We claim our strength. It is when we claim these things that we can help bring unity and healing to the whole world without preoccupation with what was lost; for we have found more than we have lost. We have found our power. We are strong!

 

*To read more about the Jewish and Buddhist conversation: The Jew in the Lotus, by Roger Kamenetz

Rabbi Rubovits
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