Tidbits of Torah

Passover Greetings from Israelheadshot white 2015cropped

Shabbat Parashat Tzav

Shabbat HaGadol

April 7, 2017- 11 Nissan 5777

Dear Friends,

I send you blessings from Israel! As we are about to celebrate Passover, it is good to remember that the Exodus from Egypt and from the horrors of slavery was not the end goal. It was a means of leading our people to a new and different reality. It was a step toward Sinai, toward Torah values, and ultimately toward the Land of Israel and toward Jerusalem.

In order to make it out of Egypt safely, our people had to cross the Red Sea. And so, on Passover, our Torah reading includes the amazing Song of the Sea, recited by Moses and by Miriam as a song of praise of God who helped us out of Egypt and pointed us toward a better future.

Each year, we read the text of the “Song of the Sea” exactly as it appears in the Torah. Yet, I have found that, from year to year, the song resonates differently in my mind and in my heart each time that I hear it.

True story: A couple of weeks ago, I walked from my daughter’s apartment in Tel Aviv to the shore of the Mediterranean Sea. As I approached the shore, I realized that although I was seeing the same Sea that I had always loved, this time it appeared different to me. I sat down on a bench facing the Sea and wrote the following piece:

“This time the sea was different. Instead of the crystal clear layers of colors I had grown to love or the gray waters and breaking waves I would drink in, this time the sea was different. This time it was almost creamy. The sand didn’t stay put on the shore or at the bottom of the sea. It was woven into the water. Water and sand appeared inseparable. Like a life lived with memories unforgotten. Today the sea was a mixture of the waters of life and the sands of experience. Today the sea reflected a life replete with experience. Today the sea was different. More nuanced. Wiser. Powerful. Steadfast. Part of the motion that defines life. A tense stillness on top but no mistaking the movement beneath the surface. The movement that sometimes breaks through the surface; that keeps the sea going; that gives it character and definition. Even as it defies definition. This time the sea was different. And so was I….And the birds overhead…they were different too.”

Now, with Pesach approaching, I wanted to share this piece with you because I realized that it holds a special message for Passover.

The Sea that I saw on that day was the same Sea that it had been for centuries. The Song of the Sea, as it is read on Passover, is the same Song of the Sea that our ancestors recited as far back as our history takes us. Yet, similar to my recent experience at the shore of the Mediterranean Sea, each time we approach the Sea, or Passover, or the reading of the Song of the Sea, if we allow it…something unique happens within our souls as we “meet it” once again.

And so, if there is one part of the Haggadah that we should not leave out on the night of the Seder, whether we understand it literally, or figuratively. That part of the Haggadah is: Next Year in Jerusalem!

Why, you might ask…?

As we all know, Jerusalem represents Israel. But, Jerusalem also, very powerfully, represents our highest ideals, aspirations and values. It represents our eternal striving to see more clearly where we are this year and where we hope to be a year from now. Jerusalem represents our ability to see our tradition and ourselves as evolving, growing and inspiring. It is an opportunity to see things differently and to connect more deeply even as we re-visit familiar places and familiar texts; even as we taste and smell the foods we associate with Passover. “Next Year in Jerusalem” doesn’t only wrap up the Seder, it also connects us and gives us space for growth! That is why we shouldn’t leave it out.

On this Passover, may we all look to the future with hope, with Torah values, and with an eye toward Jerusalem!

I am grateful for the opportunity to have this sabbatical in which I can spend time in Israel, see and celebrate with family and friends, and work on my writing!

And, a special thank you to all the members of Rodef Sholom Temple, and to all the volunteers and staff who are stepping up to the plate to make sure Rodef Sholom Temple is there for our members, in every way, during this time. I truly appreciate all that you are doing!

I look forward to seeing you all in May!

Wishing you and your loved ones a Shabbat Shalom and a Pesach Kasher v’Sameach – a wonderful, meaningful, enriching and kosher Passover!