The Two-Way Street | Where’s the Seder?

Rabbi Paula Marcus
on April 6, 2020

It’s human nature to look for order in our lives. During this chaotic time, that desire is even more pronounced. While we learn about so many people who are suffering, we can feel the depth and breadth of this modern plague. All of our patterns have been disrupted. We see this playing out in our personal lives, our communal lives and our political lives, both in our own country and all over the world.

Here in the US, primaries have been postponed, and campaigns have been forced to shift gears. Some of our J Street members are arranging virtual meetings with political leaders and attending online briefings.

Let’s be perfectly honest. Israeli politics have been chaotic long before the COVID-19 crisis. When have there ever been so many elections in such a short period of time? Has there ever been a prime minister who has successfully dealt with the perils of indictment for so long? And the latest election results are so disturbing with the fracture of the major opposition party.

Where can we find any sense of order?

As Passover approaches, we are all looking for new ways to celebrate in the midst of such chaos. Zoom seders, pre-recorded seders, maybe a medical mask or protective glove on the seder plate…we are going to have to be creative. To create order, we will have to think outside the box (of matzah?).

The haggadah tells us that the essence of the Passover story is that we move from bondage to freedom, from slavery to redemption. The whole seder is constructed in such a way that we are supposed to feel that central message. We know that internalizing that message must lead us to action. This year, more than ever, as we hear about the impact this health crisis is having on the most vulnerable, we are uncovering the inequalities in our own country and all over the world. There are so many people who are risking their lives to provide care for those who are sick. Some are forced to work for minimal pay to keep food on their tables. And those who are incarcerated in our jails and prisons, as well as refugees in detention camps, are living in fear for their lives.

When we sit at the seder table, b’chol dor vador (in each and every generation) we relive our ancestors’ experiences of oppression, cruelty and injustice. Just as we open the door for Elijah and Miriam, may we too open the door of heart and mind to shed light on the inequality and slavery that we see in this moment, so that we may take bold actions that lead to peace and justice.

Rabbi Paula Marcus has served Temple Beth El in Aptos, CA in many capacities since 1979. She is currently the Senior Rabbi of the congregation. She received her BA in Judaic studies from SUNY at Binghamton. She holds a masters degree in Rabbinic studies and Rabbinic ordination from the Academy of Jewish Religion.

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