In the coming months we will celebrate two important holidays, Purim and Passover. Our tradition commands us to “be happy” during the two days of Purim. We revel in the glorious saga of our deliverance from evil, and the delicious treats at the Purim table. We recount the travail of Queen Esther and Mordecai, as they combat the dangers of Haman. Please join us on Monday night, March 6th for a wonderful celebration and a special “debate” about Purim. This is the moment to dress up in costume, and even act in a frivolous manner. There will be fun, food and frolic in CBT during that evening.
We celebrate Passover with our congregational family on Thursday evening, April 6th at 6:00pm. Pesach evokes so many memories for all of us, and I trust you will join us for a beautiful and meaningful Seder meal and service. The invitation for the Seder dinner is found in this newsletter, and online.
Passover focuses on the story of liberation, and the challenges we encounter as persons endowed with free will. The Sages ask, how did we gain this freedom, and how are we able to exercise this free will during our lives? In one story, the soul protests when the Almighty summons it to birth and commands it to enter the womb. But the soul cannot decline. During the time of gestation, the unborn child is shown the whole world and the entirety of Torah. At birth, the soul and mind enter into our physical being, and the portals showing eternity are basically closed. Then an angel smites the newborn on the lips and the child forgets all the Torah that was learned in the womb. So the child’s learning process in a continual process of struggle and acquiring knowledge and right behavior. When you think about this midrash, it’s clear that the gift of freedom is literally born with us. We are given that gift, but it includes the possibility of doing both good and bad deeds. It is a gift fraught with responsibility. Our life enables
us to constantly choose, as we struggle with our desires and limitations. Passover reminds us that our freedom demands that we teach our children wisely. Passover reaffirms the notion that learning is a lifelong process.
One aspect of the lens we view in our Haggadah is that we survived slavery. The Torah reminds us more than thirty times that “You were slaves in Egypt,” which teaches that we need to treat others with respect and kindness. Where we witness shackles of degradation and poverty, we need to deal with those issues. The Haggadah story is more than simply, we survived, and became a prosperous new nation. This intricate novella weaves a pattern of oppression, liberation, and facing the responsibilities of building a stronger civil society. We remember where we came from (remember the 1st commandment of the Decalogue!) and what it means to be a stranger in the land.
Freedom is a gift! Maimonides reminds us in the first volume of the Mishneh Torah, “Every human being can be righteous like Moses, or wicked like Jeroboam. We can be merciful or cruel, generous or miserly. Every person shall turn to the way he/she desires.” Thus our call for this Passover season is to do the good, and help others. Exercising our freedom is a bit like playing tennis or golf: we need to get in shape, do lots of stretching and warm- ups, learn from the experts, and practice!
Certainly each one of us can do the same as a member of Beit Tikva: practice our faith, learn and show kindness and act generously to the congregation. May all of us be blessed with kindness and good health for this spring season!
Rabbi Martin W. Levy