“Let all who are hungry come in and eat, let all who need come in and make Pesach.” Passover Haggadah
The Dalai Lama once asked a group of rabbis, what has kept Judaism alive during its 2,000 years in dispersion. They, of course, answered education of the children in their Jewish Identity, but the rabbis then added a second equally important factor, Family Ceremonies. Well, this year, America joins us. April 2nd is Family day, where the whole country celebrates the value of family. For us, it is the third day of Passover and for our Christian neighbors, it is Easter Monday. Even the banks are telling us to spend time with our families as they are closed.
When I read about this I thought about my different families and how I have celebrated Passover with them. When I was a teenager, my mother would host one Seder, the other one would be with my father’s family. Interestingly enough, hers were more traditional, yet my father was the more traditional Jew. My mother is like many of our congregants, not too crazy about organized religion, a spiritualist. One thing, though, always stands out for me about her Seders. We were always to invite non-Jews to our Seder. My mother wanted them to see that our prayers were not so different than theirs.
When I met Mina, I inherited another family, hers. The Persian, American, Hebrew language Seders were and are marvels of linguistic acrobatics, translating from Hebrew to English to Persian and back. But what I remember best about these Seders is the first one, right after I was engaged to Mina. We Ashkenazi were/ are? Forbidden to eat rice at Passover time. I was told because Persians consider themselves Sephardim, they could eat it. I expected something like Chinese white rice, perhaps because I thought. in my Ashkenazi arrogance, that they were guilty about eating rice. What a mistake that was! They served four different types of rice dishes, each with a different allowed vegetable. It was delicious. FYI, the rule of thumb in a Sephardic/Ashkenazi mixed marriage is, whoever is in charge of the Kitchen is in charge of the rice, etc.!
My third family for these 31+ years is my Temple family. I remember the Seders we used to have at a banquet hall on Coldwater and Riverside, sorry, I have forgotten the name. One year, we had it at Temple Beth Hillel when that catering hall had a fire. We stopped having them when we realized that the cost of a catered meal was pricing it out of the range of our people. Several years ago, members of the Temple Board proposed a Community Seder/ Celebration. Prepared and served and hosted by us at Temple. It was to “reenact” the first Seder where people would share a meal and look at their freedoms. It has evolved into a more formal Seder, and grown substantially, but not lost its feelings of family.
What are those things that bring family feelings to our Temple Seders? The first, Freedom! We appreciate people being themselves. “Free to be you and me.” Second, Food, we live by the 11th Commandment of Judaism, ‘Thou Shalt Not Run out of Food.’ Third, Festivity, this is not just a Saturday night pot luck dinner at Temple. It is a reaffirmation that we are still here while many other nations are not, so be happy in who we are !
Fourth, Feelings for Each Other. “Thou Shalt Love Thy Neighbor As Thyself” !
Our congregation takes pride in the differences between our members, which means frankly, we must not merely tolerate these differences but protect them. I have been to other congregations where any step outside of what is considered correct could lead to expulsion, but certainly to isolation.
Members of our Temple Family have committed, time, and to welcoming returning old friends and to new comers to our family. We want all to receive the unique blessings that only a Temple Beth Emet Seder can provide, from the homemade Chicken soup to the CHILDREN”S chocolate covered Matzah reward. Each needs to find their own freedom in food, in festivity and in fellowship. Let us make that happen !
Our family at TBE has grown this year and we the veterans, must teach to the rookies, what is meant by ‘ the Temple with a Heart’ and this heart must always beat proudly, upholding the Four Freedoms for all who enter our gates , Freedom of Speech and Expression, Freedom of Worship, Freedom from Want and Freedom from Fear.
This year whether in your personal Seders, at our Community Seder or during Family Day, remember those who are part of your family, whether DNA, USA or TBE and welcome them into your heart.
B’ahava V’Hag Sameah,