A Sweet, Healthy Passover to you all!
This Friday marks an unusual occasion for our community and I wanted to take a moment to share a few reflections with you.
At Sundown this evening, the Jewish people celebrate and commemorate with song, story and food the narrative of our Exodus from Egypt. History and the Biblical Book of Exodus share the encounter between Moses and Pharaoh, where Moses asked for the right of Jews to worship their God in Freedom. Pharaoh famously refused, Ten Plagues descended upon Egypt, and the Jewish people were liberated from bondage. Since that time, each year, we gather to tell that story and to remind ourselves that in every generation, we are commanded to feel as if we were just liberated from slavery ourselves. This means our hearts are particularly open to the suffering of Jews and all people everywhere; and that we are meant to rededicate ourselves to bringing freedom and justice to all those not yet free.
We eat Matzah to remember the haste with which the Children of Israel left Egypt, not having enough time for bread to rise; we eat horseradish to remember the bitterness of our hard labor; we dip parsley, a symbol of the blessing of springtime and rebirth, in salt water, to remember the bitter tears of our enslavement. A delicious dish of apples, raisins, dates and nuts comprise haroset, meant to remind us the mortar we used to build Pharaoh's cities; and on the Passover Seder table is the shank bone of a lamb, to remind us the sacrificial lamb that was eaten on that last night in Egypt more than 3500 years ago. The blood from the sacrifice, used to mark the doorposts of the Jewish homes, reminded God of whom to spare when the terrible plague of death came upon the Egyptians, prompting Pharaoh to finally "let my people go."
The Sages teach, however, that any war of liberation is cause for both our own rejoicing but a humble of expression of gratitude, knowing that others had to die in order for us to be free. And how true that is today, where so many in this world continue to struggle for freedom, often at great cost to human life.
As a community we remember the Passover here in Brooklyn by building homes with Habitat for Humanity; visiting prisoners at Albion, Rikers and Bedford Hills; tutoring at John Jay High School; sleeping in homeless shelters; and so much more. We remember our history and live out its values in order to make the world a better place. That our community is made up of people from so many backgrounds, working together for ideals of friendship, love and peace is a true sign of our having our values in order! Thanks for all you do to make our community special.
This Sunday, we will be hosting Old First Reform Church for their Easter Service--returning the favor to Rev Daniel Meeter and his community for graciously hosting us since 2009 while our ceiling was under repair. As many of you know, this past September Old First had a ceiling collapse and so they will now make their special holiday home at CBE while they undergo repair. Our inter-religious friendship and devotion to one another is a great neighborhood story and we are proud to practice this special mitzvah of hospitality for our friends.
In our community, we are blessed with so many members and staff of CBE, working together to honor our traditions and to be reminded that ultimately, there is more that unites us than divides us; and that our diversity of belief and practice is a strength and source of celebration in our world.
For those members of our CBE community who celebrate Passover, Hag Sameach and Happy Passover! And to those members of our CBE community who celebrate Easter, Happy Easter! May each of you and your loved ones be blessed in the year ahead; may you be renewed in this spring of rebirth; and may you all know goodness, kindness and peace.
Rabbi Andy Bachman