Shabbat Seventh Day of Passover Beloved, Beautiful, Black Yizkor

Dear Friends,

This Shabbat we will have a virtual Friday night service followed by a virtual Shabbat morning service on Saturday morning. During our virtual Saturday morning service, we will recite the Yizkor prayer. But, we will also read the traditional Torah reading for the Seventh Day of Passover, including the Song of the Sea. This special Song, celebrates the culmination of the first stage of the Exodus from Egypt.

Only after crossing the Red Sea – only after the parting of the waters of the sea, a miracle allowing our people to truly escape the Egyptian armies – did our people breathe a sigh of relief and sing God’s praises using the phrase: “Mi kamocha ba’elim Adonai” Who is like you among the gods, God?”. Only then did our people begin to comprehend God’s powerful message of redemption and of liberation. Only then did our people understand that God wants us to be partners in the on-going work of redemption in our world. Only then did our people realize that we have a mission to fulfill in the world – to be a true light unto the nations.

And, on the Seventh Day of Passover, tradition has us read the Biblical “Song of Songs” – the romantic love story between a shepherdess and her lover – a story that Rabbi Akiva re-interpreted to be a love story between God and the people of Israel. In that Biblical love story, the woman describes hershelf, saying: “Shechora ani v’na’avah” “I am black and I am beautiful.” In the Song of Songs, the shepherdess is expressing her sense of being seen as “different”. She is defiantly stating that she, too, is beautiful, that she, too, is worthy of being beloved.

These days, when Springtime is in the air, when we celebrate Passover, the holiday of redemption, of liberation, of hope and of new beginnings – when we see the burgeoning of new blossoms, new flowers, of renewed grass and of abundant sunshine – we also must remember our mission as Jews.

What is our mission as Jews?

To help move our society closer and closer to the ultimate fulfillment of the redemption that began with the Exodus from Egypt.

Our society still treats Black people as different from White people. Our society still relates to Asian Americans as different from White Americans. And, although the difference may or may not be visible to the naked eye, many in our society still relate to Jews as different from other Americans.

On this holiday of redemption, of hope, of liberation, of Springtime, of renewal, let us remember that the visible and invisible differences between human beings do not make us or them any more or less children of the One God, the creator of all human beings.

Let us rededicate ourselves to working as God’s partners to bring about more respect, more love, more inclusion, more understanding, more justice and more peace into our world. And, may we be privileged to see the fulfillment of the redemptive process and to sing more songs of praise of God who has inspired us to be better human beings in a kinder and more inclusive world – speedily and in our days!

Shabbat Shalom and Chag Sameach!

Rabbi Gilah Dror