President’s Message – April 2011
The Season of Our Freedom
The seasons change at the time of our people’s favorite holiday, Pesah, Passover, zman heruteinu, the season of our freedom. More American Jews participate in a seder, our ordered meal of indeterminate length, than any other “Jewish” event during the year. With its over-eating of heavy foods, four cups of the grape, room for every current event and all past hurts, and the in-gathering drama of a family’s growing and changing, the sederim (more than one seder) are part of the annual early spring memories for most.
In our congregation, Marilyn Moir, Marian Wolf, and their team, illustrating the Maoist notion that women hold up more than half the heavens, will be preparing another 7th night community seder. Why is our congregation establishing this tradition? Some members are not available for the first or second seder for they travel to be with their biological families or with those they have been celebrating for many years. Others enjoy the diversity of perspectives on liberation found in our community as we bring our own traditions to this festive communal meal. And most enjoy the unique vegetarian/dairy dinner, as a break from the heavier meals of this season of matzot.
From what have we been freed? In our home, we try to be freed from the clutter piling up during the winter as we search for chametz, the dust of leaven, the sands of winter. This search for chametz, bedikat chametz, is a fun family activity, after weeks of spring cleaning. On the evening before the first seder, our family takes small piece of bread and hide them in the open in several rooms, take a feather or whisk broom and a paper bag, light a candle, and collect the bread. With a prayer, we say that any remaining bread in our home is like the dust of the earth. Our home is then symbolically freed from the dust of winter. Spring is ready to arrive for our family; we are freed to start anew.
Our people started fresh and new, shaking off the dust of slavery and rushing to become free at the first Pesah. We passed over the sea to be a new people. We also hope that we are changing for the better, as the season changes with longer, warmer days. It is time to let loose our chains to bad habits, grievances, and hard feelings. The sun will melt away the coldness of winter.
Aviv, this coming month, means spring, the time when the barley began to be harvested. We started counting our days by collecting the barley in an omer, the amount of barley that is bundled in a sheaf. We count to Shavuot, seven weeks from the 2nd night of Pesah, to the time when we learned that freedom needs instruction, with the giving of the Torah, the law, at Mt. Sinai.
“Teach us to number our days so that we might have a heart of wisdom” (Psalm 90:12). May all of your days be numbered for goodness and health and joy within our community as the seasons turn.