25 March 2013

Passover Message

A Passover Message from Rabbi Andy Bachman

As we gather around the Passover Seder table tonight, telling stories old and new, grabbing hold of the matzah--the bread of affliction--recounting plagues, lifting our cups in triumph, our voices sing out in celebration and gratitude for life and freedom as well as the privilege and responsibility in recognizing that hunger and slavery continue to persist in our world.  

This year Congregation Beth Elohim celebrates its 150th Anniversary--a monumental feat for our sacred community here in Brooklyn.  The challenges from a century and a half ago are different from today but no less urgent.  In 1862, African Americans were slaves and women were not granted the right to vote, Israel did not exist and the First Zionist Congress would not yet meet for another thirty years.  But bondages were broken and history was made, by the inspiring work of men and women who insisted that in every generation we are all obligated to break the chains of oppression 

What challenges plague us today?  Hunger.  Homelessness.  Guns.  Homophobia.  War.   Addiction.  Many are the Pharaohs of our age.  

This remarkable and eternally inspiring story that we tell, that "in every generation we are obligated to see ourselves as leaving Egypt," continues to animate our existence.  For more than three thousand years, the Jewish People have shared with the world our story of overcoming oppression, of conquering despair, and of meriting the joy to sing aloud, "Next year in Jerusalem."  Through song, story, faith and food, our Hagadah offers a timeless tale of triumph each year, reinforced each week at Shabbat services where we lift up our voices in celebration of that first Exodus:  "Who is like You, God, doing wonders?"

Passover teaches us many things; perhaps most important is that Judaism calls upon us--through Torah, Prayer and Deeds of Lovingkindness--that we are God's partner in bringing about a more just and peaceful world.

After an historic visit to Israel by President Obama, the hope for peace is rekindled.  Congress is debating laws concerning guns and immigration and economic justice.  Closer to home, Congregation Beth Elohim, its tireless staff, its intrepid membership and volunteers from across the city, continue to daily feed hundreds of our neighbors still suffering under the deprivations of Hurricane Sandy.  In May and June we will serve as a respite shelter for a dozen homeless men.  We continue to tutor students at John Jay High School.  And throughout the spring, we will continue to build homes in Brooklyn in partnership with Habitat NYC.  

For every plague we recall in the Hagadah, there is an answer, a small redemption, that we can bring about in our world with the work of our hands and the message of hope beating strong in our hearts. 

May this Passover season of renewal bring you and your families a year of good health, good learning, and a greater measure of peace in our time.

!חג שמח/Hag Sameach!

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