Friday, April 22, 2016

Thoughts on Passover 5776

This week, we interrupt the weekly Torah cycle to read the special portion for the first day of Pesach (Ex. 20:21-51), which describes the events of the exodus from Egypt.  This year, the first day coincides with Shabbat.

Many years ago—in 1988, to be exact-- I was a member of the Ritual Committee at Congregation Sha’ar Zahav, San Francisco, and was privileged to take part in producing a haggadah for the congregational Seder.  Presented here are the paragraphs of that haggadah which correspond to the Torah portion which will be read tomorrow:

At last came the final, endless night.  We splashed our doorposts with lamb’s blood, and sat up late at our tables, robed and belted, our staffs at our sides, our few possessions at our feet.  It was the month of Nisan, and the night air was sweet with spring.

We ate in haste.  In the hushed night, we could hear the beating of our hearts. At midnight, a great cry shattered the silence.  As it is written, “At midnight, God smote all the first-born in the land of Egypt and Pharaoh rose in the night, he and all his servants, and there was a great cry in the land of Egypt, for there was not a house where there was not one dead (Ex. 12:29) But our dwellings were spared.

In haste we rose from our tables, snatching our possessions, hurrying our children, packing the flat loaves that had not had time to rise.  Our kneading troughs on our shoulders, we burst into the night, streaming through the streets of the cities that had been our prisons, through the great avenues we had built with our tears, past the lifeless eyes of the sphinxes and the dead stone of the tombs, and then beyond, out into the wide clean darkness: free.

May all know the joy that comes with freedom, and may we dedicate our lives to bring freedom and redemption to all the world.