In honor of Passover beginning this week I thought I would share snippets from a custom Haggadah we use at our Seder.
I have very fond memories of Passover while growing up, but when I became an adult I realized that there were parts of the traditional Haggadah that I didn’t like. Starting in the 1970’s many other people started creatively changing and adding to the Haggadah to include values that reflected their ideas. But I found that none reflected what I wanted from the holiday. So I created one of my own. As the kids grew up, I would modify it annually, but the story continues to reflect our family values and principles of freedom, both physically and spiritually, for all people.
From our family Haggadah:
The first Passover was celebrated over 3000 years ago when the People of Israel were freed from the oppression of slavery. Jews have been celebrating this night for thousands of years. On this night, we come together to celebrate freedom and community with words both ancient and new.
On this night, we honor people who have struggled or are still struggling for their freedom. This week, people all over the world are observing Passover at their own Seders by reading through a Haggadah. The word “Seder” means, “order,” and “Haggadah” means, “the telling.”
On this night, we open our hearts and our doors to welcome family and friends to our table. The Haggadah describes the story that begins with the disgrace of slavery and ends with the glory of freedom. Passover cannot be complete until everyone around the table understands the lesson of the story: that the way things are is not the way things have to be; our world can be radically altered.
On this night, we break through our own narrow places, naming the pharaohs that oppress our lives and our spirits. We lift and point to symbolic foods that serve as signposts on the path toward freedom. Together we glimpse the possibility of liberation.
Each year, the Seder challenges us to change our perspective. The Haggadah helps us reframe our ancient story, distilling it and expanding it until it becomes our own. During the course of the Seder, we discover that our differences of perspective and experience become a source of strength and connection. When shared, our individual journeys become a part of collective memory.
On this night, we face the Pharaoh within and without, and are not afraid. Tonight, we name the challenge that is ours: to teach our children of the gift of freedom. Tonight we give thanks for the ability to tell this story again, bringing us back to the table with others who share our journey.
One task that many Jewish households do in order to get ready for Passover is to clean the home of all bread products and any other foods that ‘inflate.’ But we can also prepare ourselves by being willing to do a spiritual cleansing as well.
This cleansing would refer to the inner inflated or “puffed up” aspects of ourselves taking up space that could be reserved for higher more enlightened purposes: like being overly proud or jealous or angry. Think of our souls like big houses with many rooms, secret passages and connecting corridors. Our ‘issues’ are scattered about the house like crumbs.
One of our jobs on Passover is to search our spiritual homes –ourselves– with the compassionate understanding that there is no issue or problem so big or “puffed up” that it cannot be uncovered and removed once the light of awareness is focused upon it.
It is an old custom for us to rinse our hands before dipping food during the Seder. We are thinking about purification and cleansing in this season. As we wash, each person may also think about what they might like to “wash away” to set them free or how might we consider raising our hands in service during the upcoming year.
From an article in the San Jose Mercury News that talked about freedom and the meaning of Passover:
“What are the things that enslave me? I’d say repetitive patterns of behavior. That’s what Pharaoh was all about. There’s tremendous external pressure on this guy to let the Israelites go. The plagues. The advice of his own counselors. But nope, he can’t break the old pattern. He’s Pharaoh, and he always decides what to do, and he’s going to make that culminating mistake. But the truth is, we all act like that. It’s not obvious to us when we do it; it wasn’t obvious to him. People do lots of self-destructive things though not at the level he did.”
Passover teaches us that one of our central missions is to ask questions, to search our souls and explore our hearts. But our true liberation comes not from asking questions alone, although that is the beginning. Our liberation comes from the understanding and acceptance that not every question has an answer, and that not every problem can be neatly resolved.
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