Friday, April 14, 2017

Passover Reflections

Passover Reflections

by Aaron Ginsburg 


Passover starts long before we sit down for the seder. First there is a thorough house cleaning, during which I discovered that those blue circles on the kitchen floor were the remains, flattened and dried, of 6 months of blueberries that rolled off the table. I was very surprised to learn the floor was a boring gray.  

The object of all the cleaning is to get rid of the chametz. Just to be safe, Jewish law provides a loophole; the chametz that remains is sold, usually to a rabbi, who then resells it to a non-jew. At the end of Passover, it is repurchased. 

On Sunday I picked up food for 70 people from Zayde’s Market, in Canton, Ma, for the  Congregation Jeshuat Israel (Touro Synagogue Newport, RI) community seder. On arrival in Newport there was a whole crew getting the Levi Gale house ready for the seder.

On Monday morning I attended services at Temple Israel, Sharon, MA. It was the fast of the first born. It’s a very minor fast, and after studying some Talmud, a siyyum made that fast unnecessary. There were a lot of people at services, far more than at our usual daily minyanim. I don’t think it was for the food!

Selling and burning of the Chametz was the next order of business, under the leadership of Rabbi Ron Fish, who had both the sales contract and the lighter fluid ready to go.  Lulavim (palm branches) from Sukkot were used for fuel.

On the first night I attended a community seder led by Rabbi Yossi Kivman at Chabad in Mansfield, Ma. His wife Tzivi was ill…the Rabbi soldiered on. Tzvi is starting to feel better. The seder was running a little late, so I went home and had an instant seder. I boiled an egg for the seder plate, and made my 5 minute Italian charoset. Actually, it took me 35 minutes to remember how to assemble the blende, so it was 40 minute charoset!  A rolled up slice of Turkey filled in for the zeroa (shank bone). It’s amazing how fast a seder can be when you don’t have an audience.

On the first day of Passover, the haftarah is Joshua 5:2-6:1.  There is curious incident at the end of the haftarah,

“13 Once, when Joshua was near Jericho, he looked up and saw a man standing before him, drawn sword in hand. Joshua went up to him and asked him, "Are you one of us or of our enemies?" 14 He replied, "No, I am captain of the Lord's host. Now I have come!" Joshua threw himself face down on the ground and, prostrating himself, said to him, "What does my lord command his servant?" 15 The captain of the Lord's host answered Joshua, "Remove your sandals from your feet, for the place where you stand is holy." And Joshua did so.”

When Joshua asked the messenger what he was commanded, he was obviously expecting something important.  No such luck!  “Take off your sandals!” The messenger called out Joshua for being rude, and by implication haughty.

It’s unlikely that Joshua, a prophet noted for his piety, needed to be reminded that he was God’s servant. So who is the message for? Undoubtedly the message is for us, the readers of this passage.  

When we burn the chametz that we eat, we should also be banishing the chametz in our minds, including the idea that we are number one.

Later, I traveled on to the community seder at Touro Synagogue in Newport. I was delayed by one hour by an accident on Route 24 south. My friends in Newport told me they were worried about me. It’s nice to be missed.

Rabbi Marc Mandel led a spirited seder for 70 people. To break the ice, some of tables had to guess a Passover item after hearing three clues. As the meal was being served, the Rabbi called on several people to describe synagogues they had visited. We heard about synagogues in the US Virgin Islands, CuraçaoPonta Delgada, Portugal (Azores), Rome, and Kiev. 

Zayde’s food was a hit in Newport. It was good, and there was plenty of it.  Thanks to Josh Ruboy and the crew. I’m sure most of us avoided the scale for a few days. 

Chag Sameach!

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