Rabbi Donsky’s Column


What great Purim celebrations we enjoyed together last Sunday (and Monday with the Preschool).  A big thanks to everyone who helped out and worked together to elevate our celebrations! Now, of course, next up is our “Season of Going Out from the Narrow Places”, from our personal and collection Egypts; the Festival of Pesakh (Passover).

The Festival begins at sundown with a first Seder, March 25th aka the 15th of the Hebrew month of Nisan. Depending upon your custom, 7 or 8 days, the celebration concludes on either Monday evening April 1st or Tuesday evening April 2nd when the sun goes down. The temple officially observes 7 days as we do with Sukkot (and so the religious school will be open for classes on Tuesday, April 2nd at 5:45 PM and Melton’s Foundation class will also be meeting).

So what exactly do I mean when I write the “Season of Going Out from the Narrow Places”? The Hebrew word for Egypt is “Mitz-ra-yim” from the root “tzar” – narrow, or difficult, as in the much later Yiddish “tzuris.” The writers of the Hebrew Bible thus named ancient Egypt a place of “double-troubles”  and suffering (the “yim” ending is plural and has the effect of doubling), not to mention it was located “between the narrows” of the Nile River. It was a place of slavery, as the story tells us, where our people surely felt hemmed-in, cornered, suffocated all around.  So accustomed to the mind-set of suffering and persecution, even when they left Egypt behind the Israelites struggled time and time again, to overcome that bitter legacy.  Consider just how many times the Israelites seriously complain and question God and Moses’ leadership about their newly found freedom wanting only to grasp onto the old days when as slaves “all was provided to them.”

Change can be awfully difficult and very fearful, if we let it.  Whether like the Israelites going from slavery into freedom or any of us today grappling with what the world throws our way; there is so much we can’t control and so much to handle and juggle in our lives.  So along comes Pesakh – Liberation and Freedom – a gift of the Divine – offering us a chance to dive into the waters of the Sea of Reeds embracing change and all that comes with it and then swim out renewed and rebirthed on the other side.

Therefore, I encourage us to experiment a bit with our Seder celebrations to add or change a thing or two we observe or celebrate for Pesakh this year.  Maybe its simply putting the bread and other leavened foods away for a whole week while eating your matzah plain and unadorned. Or perhaps choosing a new Haggadah that will encourage you to see the festival through a different paradigm or alternative metaphors.

Let me offer two such creative and unusually Haggadot – the Haggadah for the Liberated Lamb by Roberta Kalechofsky (here’s link on amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Haggadah-Liberated-Lamb-Roberta-Kalechofsky/dp/0916288269/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1361922796&sr=8-1&keywords=the+haggadah+for+the+liberated+lamb ).

And the Santa Cruz Haggadah by Karen G. R. Roekard (here’s the link on amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Santa-Cruz-Haggadah-Participants-Version/dp/096289138X/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1361922925&sr=1-2&keywords=the+haggadah+for+consciousness ).

The first, as the title suggests, is a vegetarian-oriented Haggadah which challenges us to view liberation from a larger and more inclusive lenses.  The second, my personal favorite, is a wonderfully crunchy granola, hippie-inspired but very spiritual and psychologically serious offering that invites us to connect in with other groups who are needing freedom or protection now -  the homeless, the redwoods, those discriminated against because of their age, sex, sexual preferences,  – and “with the ways in which we enslave ourselves now through the risks we don’t take, the words and actions we keep repeating, the questions we don’t ask….”.   There is coloring book version, too!

Even if you keep your regular Haggadah around the table a few copies of these or other unique Haggadot are sure to invite questions, lots and lots of questions; and that’s a big part of the Seder experience.

Happy Preparing for Pesakh!

With many blessings and much gratitude,

Rabbi Art Donsky

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