A Passover Message from Rabbi Joshua Heller
Members of the extended Atlanta Jewish community expresses their thoughts about the 2023 Passover holiday, using the prompt, "Unity Creates Community."
Rabbi Joshua Heller is the senior rabbi at Congregation B’nai Torah.
After the very first seder, there were to be no leftovers. In Exodus 12:10, Moses is warned that the Paschal Lamb, offered on Passover eve, must be consumed on that very night. Those who failed to clean their plates would not only run afoul of grandma’s decree, but G-d’s as well.
In the event that any should be left over, it must be burned. In order to facilitate the proper observance of this commandment, the Israelites are told to do something unusual. If any household does not have enough members to eat a whole lamb, they must approach the neighbors and go in together on a shared one.
Today, there is no paschal lamb, and seder leftovers may, indeed, be served later in the week (a Deja stew, if you will!) But the lesson of the shared lamb is significant. We may think that we are self-sufficient as individuals, as families, or even as segments of a community. However, in order to achieve the true liberation of Passover, we must recognize our connections to those around us. The bonds of community are not dependence or codependence- they are interdependence. It is easy to assert that those who are fed are reliant on those who provide the food, but on Passover, the converse is true as well. The family who can afford a lamb actually needs its hungry neighbors just as much.
This Passover, we are grateful that the angel of death does not literally stalk outside our doors, (though perhaps we face other foes). Still, the laws of the Paschal lamb remind us that we never know when we will need to come together for shelter and sharing, just as our ancestors did in ancient Egypt. It is only as a united nation that we are redeemed.
Joshua Heller is the senior rabbi of Congregation B’nai Torah.