Passover and the Past

March 23, 2021

Passover and the Past

Preparing for Passover every year sends me back into the past. Opening our Passover closet, I find the dishes that once belonged to my mother-in-law, and I think about the years we’ve used and enjoyed them. And I think about her and my father-in-law, both of whom I miss dearly. I sift through my recipe file pulling out the ones we make every year and find the stained 3x5 cards with Aunt Lois’ chocolate matza layer cake and my mom’s their handwriting. And we pull out the Haggadah, filled with wine and food stains to plan for another year. Ask any Jew about their Passover memories, and be prepared to sit for a while and listen! For many Jewish families, our history was written in the kitchen and around the dining room table!

Connecting with our past is part of the essence of the Passover seder. We read in the Haggadah: In every generation, each person is to see him/herself as if he/she she had come out of Egypt. The story, the symbolic foods and the rituals invite us, with all our senses to experience both the slavery and redemption of our ancestors. As we dip greens into salt water, we taste the tears of our ancestors. In reciting the 10 plagues, we put ourselves in the Israelite’s shoes and empathize with the suffering they must have experienced. And when we read “It was with a mighty hand that G-d brought us out of Egypt”, we acknowledge G-d’s role in our people’s history.

Rabbi Jonathan Sacks (z’l) former chief rabbi of the United Kingdom teaches that “To be a Jew is to know that the history of our people lives in us.” We are connected to those that came before us, with their story becoming our own. Each Passover we reenact the Exodus drama that took place long before we were born, and as we pass on this tradition it will continue long after we die. Our memories are central to our identities as members of our own families, and our shared history binds us to the entirety of the Jewish people.

This year, as we add another chapter to the annals of history, may we be inspired by our reminiscences. And may we find blessings as we make memories for everyone around our tables. Chag Sameach!

- Rabbi Beiner, JF&CS Community Chaplain