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"...And just like a checklist is not an end unto itself, but a way to make sure we get things right and to free our minds to do really hard thinking, Jewish ritual is not an end unto itself, but a way to find and create more joy, connection and meaning in our lives...."
"...The ground is softening and the flowers are budding. There is renewal in the air. If the barren trees can bear new life, then I always believe that we can rejuvenate also. We, too, are a part of the organic rhythms of nature. Spiritually we have the opportunity to be redeemed; to feel free.
"...Many of us do this all the time with behaviors of every kind: we feel we've been drinking too much, so instead of disciplining ourselves to consistently drink less in perpetuity, we pledge not to for a week or a month; we feel we aren't active enough, so instead of disciplining ourselves to do a little physical activity each day, we do P90x; we feel we haven't been spending enough time with our kids, so instead of disciplining ourselves to spend 10 extra minutes of quality time with them each day,
"...I focused on asking questions throughout the Seder, to make it possible for each person to fulfill the obligation to feel personally redeemed during the telling of the story of the Exodus. During magid I asked, ‘What burdens do you hope to be freed from in the coming year?’ I was surprised when my younger daughter spoke about her illness earlier this year. I shared my sense of finally emerging from a narrow place, those difficult months filled with anxiety about her health...."
"...There is just about no way to avoid the conclusion that the Divine plan had us becoming strangers and slaves in Egypt, so that we would know throughout our long history never to behave towards the other as the Egyptians behaved towards us, and that He redeemed us from those conditions so that we would always know to redeem others from their own straits and bondages.
Break Open Your Seder!
How can a broken cracker transform not only your seder but your life?
And maybe even the race for presidential nomination?
The Sages teach that matzah is called lechem oni because it is bread over which we say many words (onim). In addition to symbolizing the hasty exit from captivity by long-held slaves, the “bread” marks the intellectual give and take that is the hallmark of their, and our, freedom.
Early in the Seder, we break the middle matzah - Yachatz - using the smaller half to stimulate conversation about the move from oppression to liberation. The larger half is saved as the Afikomen, without which we cannot finish the meal, and which needs to be found wherever, or with whomever, it is hidden.
This simple but elegant practice reminds us we need to break open conversation as much as we need to break bread, that no one person has all the answers and that the solutions we seek will be found by looking to other people and in overlooked places. Imagine if each person at the seder saw everyone else seated around them that way. Imagine if we each person seeking the presidency did that as well!
"...Reb Zalman Schachter-Shalomi, z"l, elaborates that the miracle we are meant to attune ourselves to is the miracle that underlies all of nature. In moments when what we call ‘miracle’ occurs, that miraculous order becomes obviously visible to us, but in truth the creative flow that courses through the universe is a flow steadily suffusing the order of all existence, whether or not we notice.
"...Looking around it's easy to see ‘what difference empathy, forgiveness, patience, and tolerance would make.’ But we need to first notice if we're emotionally flooded, and wanting to contract away from our experience. If we find ourselves in this state, we must be compassionate toward ourselves. From that tiny space of self-compassion, we just may be able to extend outward to a sense of genuine compassion for the other...."
"...I believe that the seder is a literary means of experiential education. The Haggadah wants each of us to recall that we were once estranged, disenfranchised, and marginalized so that each of us will cultivate a sense of empathy for the estranged, the disenfranchised, and the marginalized in our society today. We honor our past by acting in our present!..."
"...What happens when a congregation becomes the venue for one of these parody videos? It helps build up anticipation for an upcoming holiday, we see young adults, long-time members, and young children all working together on something fun and innovative, and there's a great feel-good and buzz in the larger congregation who love to hear that someone on the other side of the USA (or the other side of the world!) has seen our little video...."