Seder: The oldest and the newest.
Monday evening, April 18, 2011, the eve of Nissan 15, the night of the first Passover Seder. We celebrate the release of the Hebrews from Egypt, 3500 years ago, the first release in history.
We celebrate this founding of our identity and souls in our homes and synagogues with pomp and ritual unparalled to any other festival. The month of Pesach, Nissan, is the first of the Jewish year (Exodus 12). Our calendar begins with our liberation from Egypt, and this is even before the Ten Words, or commandments will be announced (Exodus 20).
The Shabbat preceding Passover is Shabbat Hagadol, the great Sabbath, because our tradition sees in it the announcement and the foreshadowing of the ultimate release.
Remember that the Seder (Monday night) is not an historical commemoration but, through the rituals and reading of the Haggadah, it is a reenactment of the difficult narrative of the exodus from Egypt, the “land of bondage.” It teaches a valuable insight about freedom and how important it is to pass from generation to generation.
Think about history: a succession of crashes and violence. Look at what is taking place today all over the Arab countries, 3,500 years after Moses. That region is still a region immersed in violence, with very little freedom and regimes that cling tightly to their power. Today these people have only begun the long, difficult and painful journey, full of obstacles and risks, which will one day lead to freedom, democracy and the rule of law.
In celebrating the Seder, may we realize the joy of being Jewish, even if among other nations it is far from easy. May we understand that our duty is to support these movements, help them, and rejoice with them, even if possible derivations – the parashah of this Shabbat achare evokes the deadly dangers of religious fanaticism – can be scary and involve risks.
Have a Seder full of awareness and consciousness
Chag pesach sameach