“Why is this night different from all other nights?” We have asked this question for decades and, today, many of us bask in the joy of hearing our children and grandchildren ask the very same thing. Why is this night different? Because we eat only matzoh, eat bitter herbs, dip twice and relax on pillows to demonstrate that we are no longer slaves in Eretz Mitzraim, the land of Egypt. But, is that it?
Why is this year different from all the years that came before it? And how might this year’s seder be different from all those that came before?
When we first began celebrating Passover, or Pesach, we had recently crossed the Red Sea and looked forward to giving thanks for our newfound freedom by offering sacrifices to G-d. Throughout the years, we have added quite a few rituals to commemorate this celebration of freedom such as cleaning out our pantries, buying pounds and pounds of matzoh, making chocolate-toffee squares from scratch and by searching for leavened foods with a candle and a feather. Rituals are wonderful. They are tangible reminders of who and what we are and are great ways to connect, on a visceral level, with our history. But, what about connecting concretely with the present?
In the Santa Cruz Haggadah, we read an updated version of The Four Questions. We ask why we sometimes feel like slaves even though we are free and what kinds of things happen in our world that are bitter like moror and what can we do to sweeten them?
Our seder this year will be different from all those that came before. We may sit next to someone new, hear a new take on an old tradition or try gefilte fish for the first time. Seder, 5779, or Pesach, 2019, will be different, also, because our current obligations to repair the world are different and, as Passover is one of our Jewish new years, the seder has become a time to begin making personal resolutions once again. As Jews, we are responsible to engage in Tikkun Olam, repair of the world. There are more homeless people in our parks than ever before. More families visit our food banks and more school children eat free lunches than ever before. Blood is being shed across the country because too many of us are considered “the other.” Our libraries operate on abbreviated schedules because too many think they have ceased being valuable. It’s a different world and we live in a new time. How will we dip into ourselves and give to others to make their lives better?
Chag Pesach sameach,