Shabbat Hagadol and our Passover Pledge
Introductory Note: The following is my annual Passover message which will be broadcast on Public Access TV of Great Neck. Because many of you are out of PATV range, I wanted to share the message in this column. My broadcast will air throughout the Passover holiday.
This Shabbat we celebrate SHABBAT HAGADOL (The GREAT Sabbath); a name given for this Sabbath which precedes Passover. Although for many of us the physical preparations for Passover have already begun; with Shabbat Hagadol we begin our spiritual preparations for the holiday.
Last week we celebrated the b’nai mitzvah of Joseph and Sophie Galperin; two teens born to parents from the Soviet Union. During the service I spoke about how the Soviet Jewry Movement inspired me as a teenager to speak out on behalf of Jews living in peril. Our Passover Seder provides an opportunity to both appreciate our religious freedoms and to speak out in support of Jews and all people denied such freedoms throughout the globe. We acknowledge the tragic events in Syria as well as the international terrorism which continues to hold the world hostage. Therefore, whatever the length or the contents of our individual Seder, we need to find meaning in the ceremony; beyond the desire to enjoy a sumptuous meal. By rushing through a Seder in order to eat we ignore the symbolism of the Seder and de-sensitize ourselves to Jews-past and present-whose struggles for freedom deserve our attention and our respect.
During the Passover Seders many of us will be guided by what our sages taught long ago:
Begin telling the ancient story by referring to our degradation but conclude by sharing our glory.
What did the sages mean by degradation?
The Haggadah, which tells the story about the Exodus from Egypt, includes two interpretations of degradation.
The first interpretation is:
AVADEEM HAYEENU L’FAROH B’MITZRAYIM
WE WERE SLAVES TO PHARAOH IN EGYPT
The second interpretation of degradation is:
MEETKHILAH OVDAY AVODAH ZARA HAYOO AVOTAYNU
FROM THE BEGINNING OUR ANCESTORS WORSHIPPED IDOLS
So how do we distinguish between the interpretations?
Slavery reflects a condition externally imposed; a reality which the Jews of Egypt could not control. On the other hand, worshipping alien gods and being dismissive of their tradition was a choice our ancestors consciously made.
I believe that both interpretations have merit.
Referring to our imposed slavery In Egypt: We live at a time when the State of Israel is strong; yet constantly threatened by Hamas, condemned by supporters of the anti-Israel boycott and
vilified by UN organizations which ignore the most egregious human rights violations throughout the globe.
In a few weeks we will commemorate YOM HASHOAH: A dark time when millions of Jews were first enslaved and then exterminated simply because they were Jews. From personal experience and from history, we appreciate only too well, the degradation of imposed slavery. Recalling the degradation of our slavery to Pharaoh therefore, is not merely a reference to our inglorious past; it is also a personal declaration to resist becoming slaves ever again. Never again can we allow any modern Pharaoh to deny freedom and dignity to the Jewish people.
The second interpretation of degradation suggests that vigilance in defending our physical freedom is incomplete unless we proudly embrace our spiritual and cultural freedoms as well. We certainly approach Judaism from various perspectives; but whatever the approach we can never be dismissive of our Jewish heritage.
By including both definitions of degradation in our Seder story, we resolve:
-To defend any Jewish community physically threatened by an external enemy.
-To guard against any self imposed assimilation which threatens our spiritual and cultural future.
This Passover may we all-in whatever positive and reaffirming way we choose- tell the glorious story about our Jewish past, present and future.
Hag Kasher V’Sameach
A meaningful feast of freedom for all of Am Yisrael
Passover Schedule 2017
Sunday, April 9 Search for Chametz (evening)
Monday, April 10: Burning the Chametz (late morning)
Monday, April 10: First Seder (evening)
Tuesday, April 11: Service for First Day 9:30 am
Tuesday, April 11 Synagogue Seder 7 pm
Wednesday, April 12: Study for Second Day 10-11 am
Please note that on the second day we will have a study session only.
Saturday, April 15 Shabbat/ Hol HaMoed Service 9:30 am
Sunday, April 16 Sunday Hol HaMoed Service 9 am
Monday, April 17: Seventh Day Study Session 10-11 am Please note that on day seven we will have a study session only
Tuesday, April 18: Service for Eighth Day(Yizkor) 9:30 am
On the eighth day we will observe Yizkor at some point during the service. As we cannot specify an exact time, we invite you to join us for the entire service.
* Last week the town of North Hempstead held a meeting to discuss issues of concern to local synagogues and Jewish institutions. I attended that meeting and was quoted in several newspapers for raising an important question about security during times of our ritual. It is reassuring to know that the local authorities are willing to work with the synagogues to provide the best security possible.
* The Great Neck newspapers printed several photos from our Purim celebration. I thank Barry Brown for his photography.
* Our community inter-synagogue Yom Hashoah commemoration will take place on Sunday, April 23 at Temple Tikvah, 3315 Hillside Ave. in New Hyde Park. The time will be 11:30 am. Our students will participate.