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Rabbi Lisa's Message

April 10, 2024

Spring is in the air. And with that, pesach energy is rising. We are all busy preparing in different ways for this incredibly meaningful holiday where we tell the Passover story over a long and sumptuous dinner experience. In this story we remember, consider, and explore what it means to move from a narrow, constricted place (one of bondage and limitation) to a more expansive and liberated place. 

This year, the Passover story will be told against the backdrop of the Israel Hamas war. The themes of the holiday and the associated ritual objects on the seder table will take on even more meaning and will likely push us to the outermost edges of our comfort zones. How do we consider this story during a time of war? How do we integrate the themes of oppression, captivity, bondage when there is so much at stake and playing out in contemporary ways? How do we think about the redemptive aspects of Pesach - freedom, liberation, hope, miracles when the freedom and security of all kinds of people (not just in Israel and Gaza) are being squandered, squelched, extinguished?

Sigh. Let us remember to breathe this Passover. There is so much constriction we feel in our bodies just thinking about what’s happening in the world. One place that can potentially bring more freedom and ease into our bodies is to consider the nature of opposites built into many of the ritual items and themes of Passover.

For example, the salt water represents our tears and sadness for being enslaved to Pharaoh of Egypt for more than 400 years. At the same time the salt water also represents the Sea of Reeds, which parted before our eyes and offered a path to freedom, a way out! Consider also matzah, the bread that did not have time to rise in our rush to flee the oppressive bondage of Pharaoh. We call matzah, the “bread of our affliction.” Matzah is a meager food made from simple ingredients. Like bread it is made from just flour and water. So we also call matzah the “bread of poverty.” Yes, and matzah also represents our freedom. We never ate matzah in Egypt, the place of our bondage. We ate matzah on the other side of Egypt, as an independent people seeking a new life. As such, matzah is also the “bread of our liberation,” the opposite of the “bread of our affliction.”

How can one thing, salt water or matzah, actually represent two polar opposite realities? Exactly! Passover pushes us to that place of dissonance and reality bending. Paradox. Sometimes we have to inhabit that place in order to hold the unholdable. 

Many of us have expressed utter hopelessness and despair about what is happening in the world and also closer to home. Some of us are experiencing very serious life challenges that can at times feel unbearable and unsolvable. 

May this Passover expand our tolerance for such dissonance. And in the words of Jim Morrison, may we have the perseverance and passion to “break on through to the other side,“ a side that holds unknown possibility and potential. 

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