By Rabbi Navah Levine, Rabbi-Educator at Temple Emeth
Bechol dor vador chayav adam litrot et atzmo keilu hu yatza mimitzvrayim….
“In every generation each person is obligated to relate to the Exodus as if it had been a personal journey, as it said [in Exodus 13:8] ‘You will tell your child on that day, saying, It is because of what God did for me when I went free from Egypt…’”
– (From the Passover Haggadah)
Every year, we gather around the table for the Passover Seder. We gather with family or with friends. We gather with people we’ve known for decades and also with near-strangers. We go to a neighbor’s or fly across the country, joining together with others. On this first night (or two) of Passover, we gather to tell a story, a story that evidently is centrally important to us. This story has enough sway over us that we show an abiding commitment to telling it, year after year.
The story to which I refer is emphatically not the story of the Exodus. That story is already told quite extensively, dra-matically, and well in the Hebrew bible. Rather, it is our own story that we both tell and create each year around the Seder table.
Through our engagement, we are telling not the factual story of the Exodus, but something about what that story means to us. For as understood by Jewish tradition, the Exodus tale is the formative story of our national-religious identity. Thus, when we gather for the Seder, when we affirm this story as our own, we claim our place at the Jewish table. In essence, by participating, we write ourselves into the narrative tale of the Jewish people.
Some of us feel totally comfortable with our identity as Jews. Others of us feel conflicted or uncertain. Some of us tell a story of belonging and pride, others tell a story of alienation and insecurity. Whatever our individual story may be, the Seder invites us to join it with the story of our people.
The Passover Seder embraces each of us, in our authenticity. We need not conform to any particular notion of what it means to be a Jew or how to be and feel. There is no one right way to hold a Seder, no one model that all must follow.
This Passover, may we be blessed with a sense of belonging, feel the story of our people as our own, and see our individual story as an authentic chapter in the tale of the Jewish People.
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