A pre- Pesach note
No two Seders are the same. Every Seder has its own essence and character.
Passover Seders are the complete opposite to the other widely celebrated festivals in the Jewish calendar. The Seder takes place in the home, not in the public sphere and most people have never been to a Seder other than their own family Seder. This year I celebrate far from my family, friends and community in Israel and in the UK, but here in Beijing- I am grateful for my current Limmud family, new friends and warm community. It will certainly be a Seder to remember! Myself and another 50 or so yo’tai’ren are about to come together in the home of a true matriarch, Roberta Lipson, to share this meaningful reliving of our Exodus from Egypt.
The Seder is a marvel of Talmudic wisdom. It’s an incubator of religious and social identity, Torah thought, and innovative energy (Rabbi Eliyahu Fink). What I love about the Seder- is though it invokes an obligation to follow the specific “order” of the Hagaddah- we are encouraged still to be diverse and individual in our exegesis of it. I look forward to the unique form my Seder will take tonight with the diverse range of people who will be around the table each bringing their own custom, story, telling and re-telling. This is also what I love about Judaism- it requires conformity and obedience but also requires, in fact it’s survival relies on, creativity and originality. Our traditions are constantly being enhanced by innovation. It is the nature of Judaism’s flow to evolve, to observe the old and infuse it with the new… and here we are today celebrating exactly this.
Tonight we relive- we do not re-enact. My Rabbi in Hong Kong, Rabbi Stanton Zamek, taught me this week that, Exodus is a state of being. As individuals, as a people, we are still on this journey of seeking freedom. We still seek to go free from Egypt; to liberate ourselves from the shackles around our heart and from what enslaves our mind. “Freedom from self-sabotage; which may also be a kind of slavery, slavery to our inner narratives that are unhelpful to us in reaching our full potential”. This is my brothers’ drasha from excerpts of Exodus- his reading of G-d hardening Pharoah’s heart so that he would not let our people go.The breakthrough though is rationale, growth, development and promise. We are constantly realising our potential, our individuality, our nuance. If we have found the month of Nissan challenging- I certainly have! We must take this on and remind ourselves to always strive towards becoming.
Even in our diverse practice, ritual and belief- we will all be sitting around a table with our loved ones tonight, new and old- reliving our past, not forgetting that we have a chance to make a difference today, individual and communal. I hope you are inspired by your accomplishments and achievements to date and as we take a moment to think about aspects of ourselves and the world around us that we would like to work on and to improve- for it is a constant journey- I wish you all a meaningful and creative adaptation of the Seder. Your very own.