“In These Times”
VOL. 50 NO. 7
Aliza Goland, Executive Director Marcy Goldberg, Director of Education Donna Becker, ECC Director
Peggy Frank, President, Board of Directors Alan Greenbaum, Rabbi Emeritus
Andrew Straus, Rabbi David Shukiar, Cantor
From the Rabbi’s Desk Passover: It’s back to the shack
I raqi Jews tell the tale that in one country the king was chosen in a special way. When the old king died, a bird called the “bird of good fortune” would be released. On whoever’s head it landed, the people would place the royal crown and make him their new king. Once, the bird of good fortune landed on the head of a slave. That slave had been the court jester who entertained at royal parties. His costume consisted of a drum, a feather cap, and a belt made of the hooves of sheep. When the slave became king, he moved into the royal palace and wore royal robes. However, he ordered that a shack be constructed next to the palace and that his old cap and belt and drum be stored inside along with a giant mirror. The new king was known for his kindness and love for all his people. Often though, he would disappear into his shack. Once he left the door open and the cabinet ministers saw him don his feathered hat, put on his old belt and drum and dance before the mirror. They found this very strange and said to the king: “After all you are the king. You must maintain your dignity!” The king replied: “Once I was a slave and now I’ve become a king. From time to time I want to remind myself that I was once a slave lest I grow arrogant and treat with disdain my people and you, my ministers.” (As told in A Different Night, by Noam Zion and David Dishon.) On Passover, Jews throughout the world go out to our symbolic shack and put on our slave clothes. We remind ourselves that we were once slaves in order to maintain our sense of compassion, care and respect for all human beings; especially those who are still oppressed in our world, as we once were (and in many cases, still are).
36 times, more than any other commandment, the Torah commands us, “Do not oppress the stranger, the widow and the orphan for you were once strangers in the land of Egypt.” Passover is about more than good food and family joining together. Passover is a charge to us. Remember the Haggadah was meant to facilitate a lively discussion between parents, children and grandparents. Unfortunately, in too many cases, the Seder becomes a rote speed-reading of the Haggadah, rather than a drama in which people play creative roles and share passionate conversations about freedom and slavery, equality and compassion, human rights and morality. Allow your Seder to be lively and filled with meaningful conversation. To be fair, this might take some extra planning and forethought on the leader’s part, but the results will prove more enjoyable and more memorable! When we celebrate Passover, we remind ourselves that we were once slaves and we have the privilege and responsibility to work for freedom for all who are still oppressed.
l’Shalom, Rabbi Andrew Straus
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