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12 Poignant Lessons from Pesach (One for Each Tribe)

I asked my rabbinic colleagues (on Facebook):

Besides “from slavery to freedom” and “speak truth to power” and “stamp out injustice,” what poignant lessons from Pesach speak to you today? 

12 Rabbinic Responses Were:

  1. Honoring our past while celebrating the future. 
  2. A willingness to accept the obligation of inconveniencing ourselves for a week in order to gain empathy for those enslaved, for those hungry, for those oppressed today. Remember, you were once slaves, too.
  3. Pesach, for Modern Jews is a time to explore the concept of obligation, that even though we are free, what does it mean to put obligation onto ourselves?
  4. Rediscover the joy of cleansing ourselves of our inner “puffy” chametz. Letting go of arrogance and our reflex to acquire so that we can find the simple happiness of having enough. Dayeinu!
  5. I am always surprised that all those crumbs I tossed into the ocean at Tashlich (when we symbolically throw away our sins) have somehow returned in the form of the chametz that is arrogance or the need to acquire.
    I use Pesach as a “check in”, halfway through the year post-High Holy Days. It’s kind of neat that the High Holy Days and Pesach fall roughly half a year apart. It is a good time to reflect on promises made and goals that were set, allowing ourselves to fall short but acknowledging that change is always possible.
  6. I find it remarkable how, if we set aside the Seder meal, eating on Pesach can be incredibly healthy. Grilled or roasted meats, fruits and vegetables simply prepared, minimal starches if we don’t eat too much matzah and potatoes. It makes for a refreshing week of food if we are mindful of our eating. I relate that to the manna in the wilderness, which was another form of mindful eating (as was matzah). It’s a good lesson for the rest of the year.
  7. The many ways of being Jewish – all legitimate. Take any Seder table and think of what is the primary reason for each participant being there and doing the same thing. (a) one who is there because he/she feels that it is a fulfillment of God’s command; (b) one who is there because it gives him/her an opportunity to express essential Jewish ethical values, i.e. freedom, equality, etc.; (c)one who is there because it provides him/her with a connection to other Jews of past and present; (d) one who is there because it brings family and friends together in a true celebration; etc. etc. etc. Each person’s reason for being there and doing the same thing (eating matzah, drinking wine, eating maror, etc.) might be different, yet all are Jewish or part of the Jewish family. Around the Seder table are theists, atheists, believers, and non-believers….
  8. I keep coming back to two themes: 1) What do I want to clean out of my life, and what sort of an offering do I want to make with my life; 2) The resilience Jews have demonstrated throughout our history.
  9. It’s a way to measure time who is no longer at our table and who has come to join us – Pesach is dor l’dor (generation to generation).
  10. My focus is often on the idea that freedom is not the ultimate goal of Pesach but rather that we are set free with a purpose…to enter into a covenantal relationship with God that brings with it opportunities and responsibilities for each other and our world.
  11. I like to emphasize the Omer connection between Pesach and Shavuot teaching that we remain cog I any of the whole package even while we focus now on “freedom from slavey.” The story starts now but does not end on the other side of the sea…
  12. I begin my Haggadah with an introduction which concludes with: “Pesach is but the pointer to the acceptance of our commitments to complete these tasks—in a harvesting of the fruits of our labors yet to come.”
What would you add to the list? [Thanks to my colleagues who offered their answers.]

BTW, I may read this list at my Passover seder.  

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