This and That
Issue: 12.04 this is column 354
April-18-11
Three Symbols of Passover

PESACH (the Bone or Beet): Our Seder plate includes a symbol of the ancient Passover sacrifice, which was brought each year to the Temple in Jerusalem. The Hebrew word for sacrifice is korban, which comes from the root meaning “near.” What could bring you closer to your highest spiritual self?

MATZAH: The Torah tells us that the Israelites had to take the uncooked dough with them, “for they had prepared no provisions for the way.” Symbolically, the matzah reminds us that when the opportunity for liberation comes, we must seize it, even if we do not feel fully prepared -- indeed, if we wait until we feel prepared, we may never act at all. If you had to jump into such a struggle tomorrow morning, what would you have to leave behind?

The matzah also stands in contrast to chametz (Hebrew for the expansive yeast that makes bread rise), which symbolizes false pride, absorption in our individual egos, and grandiosity.

MAROR (the Bitter Herbs): The suffering of the Jews in Egypt has been matched by thousands of years in which we were oppressed as a people. Our insistence on telling the story of liberation and proclaiming that the world could be and should be fundamentally different has angered ruling elites. These elites often tried to channel against the Jews the anger that ordinary people were feeling about the oppression in their own lives. But Jews are not the only ones to have suffered oppression and violence. We think of the genocide against native peoples all around the world, including in the United States. We think of the enslavement of Africans, and the oppression of Armenians, homosexuals, women, and many others. Yet, tonight it is appropriate for us to focus also on the suffering of the Jewish people and to affirm our solidarity with victims of anti-Semitism through the ages. Anti-Semitism still persists in our own time in the use of double standards in the judgment of Jews, in acts of violence against Jews, and in refusing to acknowledge the history of Jewish suffering as equal to the suffering of other victims of oppressive social regimes in Christian, Islamic, and some secular societies, as well. Meanwhile, we Jews need to acknowledge the ways that this suffering has at times distorted our consciousness and made it hard to fully grasp the pain others feel. We must evolve a Global Judaism that compassionately embraces the Jewish people and all other peoples.

See the next item
See the site map
   
Advertisement