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D’VAR TORAH: Aprill 22, 2016

May it be a meaningful Passover for us all!

Once the young student, Abaye, was invited to the Seder of his teacher Rabbah. While still at the beginning of the Seder, Rabbah ordered the servants to clear the table. Amazed, Abaye asked, “Why are you removing the Seder plate before we have even eaten?”

Rabbah exclaimed, “Your question has served the same function as the usual four questions of ‘Ma Nishtana’. Let’s dispense with those set questions and proceed directly to the telling of the story.”(Talmud Pesachim 115b) 

“It was taught, Rabbi Eliezer says: ‘We snatch Matzos on the night of Pesach, on account of the Children, so that they should not fall asleep” (Talmud, Pesachim,109a).

What does the Talmud say? Passover night should be the best show in town. We should drive the kids crazy, so that they ask – why, “Ma Nishtana” – what is it that has changed?

On this night, we have a very special duty – to find creative ways to explain the meaning of this holiday and the meaning of who we are and what we ought to be as a people.

In the Torah, we are told 36 times to remember that we were slaves/strangers in Egypt so we must, says the Torah time and again, be kind to the strangers in our midst, treat them as we want people to treat us. This is because, as our sages say, in each generation must we feel as if we ourselves were there, in Egypt, and were saved. In essence, this holiday makes us experience it ourselves.

This is an active holiday. We stop all, the rush of daily lives. We put matzot on the table, instead of the usual bread; we set the Pesach Seder plate with its six strange ingredients and read the Haggadah. We relax on cushions and many of our people clean the house “to the bone” and change all the kitchenware. When we sit down, all this should make the kids ask – what is the purpose of all these strange customs?

Then, we tell the story of the birth of our people, and the special relations that exist between God, and us.

This holiday is therefore the Jewish memory holiday. We remember who we truly are and who we ought to be. We begin the night by opening the door to our home and holding a matzah and saying “This is our bread of poverty… let all who are hungry come and eat….” 

At this time, we also have the obligation to remember the poor, and share our bread with them. We were slaves and weak as a nation at our primal time.

Happy holiday!

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Candles should be lit for Passover and Shabbat on Friday, April 22, at 8:08 p.m.; for Passover on Saturday, April 23, after 9:09 p.m.; for Passover on Thursday, April 28 at 8:14 p.m.; for Passover and Shabbat on Friday, April 29, at 8:15 p.m.; and for Shabbat on Fridays, May 6 at 8:21 p.m.; May 13 at 8:28 p.m.; May 20 at 8:34 p.m. and May 27 at 8:39 p.m.

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Editor’s note: Rabbi David Ariel-Joel, a rabbi of The Temple – Adath Israel Brith Shalom (Reform), has volunteered to provide Torah commentaries for Community.

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