A Passover Message from Rabbi Nachi Friedman

A Passover Message from Rabbi Nachi Friedman

For our Passover holiday issue, we invited members of our community to share their responses.

Rabbi Nachi Friedman
Rabbi Nachi Friedman

Bring Them Home NOW – a unique Passover 2024 opportunity

As I write this message, I pray that the situation in Israel has changed significantly by the time it is published. It is a strange year to “celebrate” Passover. As we near day 200 since October 7th and still over 100 of our brothers and sisters are still awaiting their own exodus (may it come speedily in our days) we are asked to drink wine and be happy on Passover. Jewish law demands our resilience and flexibility for the holidays. We must be happy on holidays even if a close relative died a few days ago or if someone lost their job. Jewish law recognizes grief as shown by instituting a mandatory shiva but limits grief when in tandem with the joy of the holidays. The reverse is true as well. One must alter one’s emotional output if a happy occasion conflicts with Tisha B’av. One can be coming home from the hospital with their new born baby and still have the requirement to be sad. Living a Jewish halachik life demands resilience, flexibility and a heightened emotion regulation.

One way to approach Passover 2024 is to utilize this year as a emotional workout of our emotional regulation and flexibility. Our Passover seder begins with a paragraph in Aramaic called Ha Lachma Anya, this is the bread of affliction. This paragraph invites everyone to join our meal and concludes with a prayer to spend the next year in Jerusalem. One line in this paragraph really supports the idea above: Hashasa hacha leshana haba baraah deyisroel … Now we are here, next year we will be in the land of Israel”. While there is hope and faith in G-d for the future redemption, right now we are where we are. Right now we have to “celebrate” Passover in the here and now. Despite everything going on in the world, we must be flexible and have a meaningful, inspiring and spiritual Passover Seder. [Perhaps as we read about the Jewish people’s journey from slavery to freedom we can envision our own journey as we are all navigating our current ongoing trauma with this war. While we are not at the ending stage yet where we can look back and see the hand of G-d in everything, our seder can provide us the hope and faith in G-d to know that anything can happen and how everything can change drastically in our favor.]

I’d like to suggest another approach that will hopefully invigorate all of us and propel our sedarim forward. Some versions of the hagaddah (See the haggadah of the Machzor Vitri) write instead of Hashasa hacha (now we are here) to Ha Shasa (now is the time). I’d like to suggest that in this prayer we are alluding to the power of our Passover seder night. Right now is our ability to pray and make a significant impact in the world. Our sages teach us the importance of stopping everything to have our seder and focus on the story of our exodus. As we say two paragraphs later in the hagaddah “even if we were all sages, all discerning, all elders, all knowledgeable about the Torah, it would be a commandment upon us to tell the story of the exodus from Egypt”.

Even if we know this story backwards and forwards we must spend time tonight discussing the miracles. This requirement includes those unfamiliar with the entire Exodus story to those who wrote a PHD dissertation on it. This action taps into the unique ability of Passover that allows us to transcend and elevate ourselves and the world. This paragraph alludes to the unique opportunity TONIGHT to activate our salvation as we read about G-d’s ability to save us in the past. May our powerful Passover seder this year be the seder that Brings Them Home! May it be a seder that allows us to see the Hand of Hashem! May it be a seder that brings open miracles in this world and return all of us to Israel for the coming of Mashiach and the rebuilding of the Temple!

Rabbi Nachi Friedman is the Rabbi at Anshi Sfard in Morningside/Virginia Highlands and a therapist at JF&CS/Torah Day School.

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