Thoughts from the Rabbi

You can never completely eliminate matzah crumbs, no matter how feverishly you try.  They are sort of like glitter – the more you try to remove them, the more they spread.  Months later reminders of Passover still linger.  I’d like to think that despite the effort to prepare for Passover, and the necessary work to carefully pack and store the accoutrements until next year, most likely by schlepping everything down to the basement, positive memories remain. Not only for you, but also for all those who shared time with you at the Seder.

The Passover Seder is the most frequently observed ritual in Judaism, with so many varieties that it would not be possible to list them in a finite way.  That is what makes the Seder so meaningful and alive every year: we can augment it with so many additional readings, discussions, ceremonies and foods.  Generations continue to evolve the Seder, yet it maintains its structural integrity.  For those of you who are fortunate to participate in an intergenerational Seder, the memories of the elders at your Seder probably stretch back two, maybe even three generations, providing a rich history that continues to grow, layer upon layer.  Your participation in this year’s Seder added another layer to the Seder experience of each attendee, an experience that connects us with our ancestors who left Egypt hastily.  We eat the same matzah that they ate; we make the same Hillel sandwich minus the Passover offering.  The youngest at our table sings the same Four Questions that untold generations of youngest have intoned.  We recall the bravery of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising on April 19, 1943, which coincided with the first Seder of that year.  In many Sedarim, African-American spirituals, such as “Let my People Go” are sung.

April 4, 2018 marks the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Many may not recall the reason Dr. King was in Memphis on that fateful day.  In March of that same year, two municipal sanitation workers died because of poor maintenance on their vehicle, which highlighted not only unsafe working conditions but also very low wages, and the workers declared a strike.  Dr. King travelled to Memphis three times I believe, in support of the needs of these workers, that they could earn a reasonable wage in a safe environment.  Had the accident not happened, Dr. King might still be alive today.  Alas, 50 years later, the average wage of these workers is still amongst the lowest in the entire United States.  Dr. King was not afraid to speak his mind, challenging all Americans to think and act differently.  He demanded that we use our faith in God not as a place to seek comfort and solace, but to build our resolve to act.  Dr. King was indeed a prophet of the mid-20th Century in the style of the ancient biblical prophets, drawing attention to our failings and urging us to achieve that which is noble and right.  Who can forget when he quoted the prophet Amos (5:24): “But let justice well up like water, righteousness like an unfailing stream”. 

I wonder what Dr. King might say about the state of our country, the growth of racism, the inability for people to listen to each other?  I daresay he would be most displeased.  Where is the modern day prophet to remind us of our responsibilities, one who unabashedly speaks the difficult truths that deep down we know are right? We have much work to do.

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