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D’var Torah for Pesach, 5784 The Three Needs of the Exodus

04/17/2024 01:27:08 PM


Free Yourself and Your Home of the Vestiges of Slavery: Sell Your Chametz HERE!  

See Rabbi Rudin’s short guide to keeping Kosher for Passover and live our journey!  

In Each and Every Generation, each person must see themself as if they personally took part in the Exodus
                                                  - Rabban Gamliel in the Haggadah

Passover is the Feast of Freedom. It’s a great holiday celebrating springtime, family, tradition and perhaps above all else, liberation. We eat matzah, the bread of freedom, recline at our tables as free people, taste the bitterness of oppression, the tears of sorrow and pour off wine representing compassion even for our oppressors.   We open our doors to invite the hungry and unhoused to join us.  We declare that the true Passover will only be when all are free.
And central to the observance is the declaration of Rabban Gamliel: In every generation, each person is obligated to see themself as if they personally went out of Egypt.
That’s a tough one. What does it mean to see yourself as if you were personally freed from slavery? Judaism is all about action, deed and not creed. So what are the actions that reflect seeing yourself as being freed from Egypt?
It is so hard to put ourselves in that place. Those who have been freed from enslavement, abuse and oppression, who have gone through the most horrific and traumatic ordeals are in tragic and unique situations.  It is impossible to generalize or speculate how we may act if, G-d forbid, we were in such a terrible state. 
But, if we can dare to go to those darkest of dark places, based on testimony, research and study of those who have passed through the flames- and most importantly, through compassionate listening, we can identify three aspects of what it might mean to see ourselves as if we went out of Egypt.

Catharsis: We need to be freed of all vestiges of slavery.  We want a clean break. To be cleansed of the ordeal, the hurt, the degradation and the violation of our personhood.  Not a quantum of slavery can be tolerated. That is why the Torah tells us to remove all chametz from our homes and lives.  Chametz, leavened grain, is the symbol of bondage.

Leavened, puffed up, risen dough, represents entrapment and entanglement, of the ego-centered, materialistic “master”.  In the eyes of our free footed, nomadic ancestors, risen bread was the emblem of being stuck in servitude.  Even if we are no longer enslaved to another, how many of us are slaves to ourselves, our ambitions, needs, appetites?  Ridding ourselves of chametz is ridding ourselves of slavery.

 Affirmation:  We need our story to be told.  After the Holocaust, many survivors wanted nothing to do with what they had been through.  The trauma of the horrors was sealed off.  Parents didn’t speak of it with their children, didn’t even let themselves think of those dark years.  But as they began to recover, to heal and to trust the world again, many wanted to tell the story, to have what happened to them become known, to testify and to share; to attain some meaning and refine out of the darkness some sparks of light. 

That is why we tell the story of the slavery and the Exodus year after year, generation after generation.  By telling, we redeem history, find meaning, blessing, connection.  We find purpose: our suffering wasn’t for nothing.  We become part of the redemption of all humanity from the Pharaohs that rise up in each generation.

Closure: We need to know that we will never ever have to be enslaved again.  That is why the final act of the Exodus, seeing the Egyptian enslavers overthrown in the Sea of Reeds, swept away, was essential in our liberation.  Only when justice had been done were we finally free.  

That is why we celebrate the Song at the Sea every day, at every            service.  The moment of our redemption and the destruction of the          might of Egypt means that there will never be a return to Egypt  No matter what challenges we face, the Source of Life is the guarantor that we will transcend, endure and rise above. 

As it was throughout our history, so is it now: Re-living liberation is liberation.  You are my witnesses, says G-d through Prophet Isaiah.  Our endurance, our continued odyssey, embodies G-d’s presence in the world, G-d’s involvement in history, G-d’s promise of redemption.
Chag Sameach!
A Special Place, A Special Prayer

This Passover, as every year, Jewish communities around the world will be commemorating the Festival of Freedom, remembering our ancestors being rescued from captivity and going up to the land of Israel.

At the Seder table, the youngest among us will ask the traditional Four Questions. But for many of us there will be another question this Pesach, left unanswered.  How can we discuss being redeemed from slavery, when Hamas still holds 130 men, women and children in the most vile captivity? How can we celebrate our freedom, when our brothers and sisters are not free?

Join the world-wide campaign. Print out a hostage poster and set a place of hope, prayer and faith at your Seder table. 

Prayer by Rabbi David Lau, Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi of Israel
May it be the will of Avinu She’BaShamayim, our loving Parent in Heaven, who took the people of Israel out of the yoke of Egypt, to bless and save our brothers and sisters, the hostages who are held in iron chains, strengthen their souls and faith, protect them from all harm and sickness, have mercy on G-d’s sons and daughters who seek G-d’s salvation, and annul all cruel decrees. In G-d’s kindness, may G-d expedite their redemption and speedily take them from darkness to light, and from the abyss of captivity to eternal freedom, and return them safely to their families and homes.
Plant brotherhood and sisterhood, peace and friendship in everyone’s hearts. Remove jealousy and baseless hatred, and spread over us the shelter of Your peace; and we should soon merit to sing before You a new song, the song of redemption of Israel and the world. 

Thu, June 20 2024 14 Sivan 5784