Rabbi's Column

It’s time to prepare for Pesach. Seems that there is more preparation for Pesach than for most holidays. In fact, much of the actual holiday is about the ways that we prepare.

So much to consider! There is cleaning and cooking and selecting a hagadah and considering the meaning of words we say each and every year, that take on new meaning each and every year.

Consider the words: “Let all who are hungry come and eat.” How do we honor this tradition? At TBT, we have a 2nd night seder that everyone is welcome to join. And though it is a catered event, with costs involved, we are emphatic that no one be turned away and so the Sharon Besser 2nd Night Seder Fund assures that “All who are hungry can come and eat.”

And yet – being provided one dinner isn’t enough for those on a subsistence budget. And so there is the annual TBT Food Drive that takes place from the 1st of April right up until the 1st Seder. Won’t you take part in it? Just pay attention when the Social Justice Committee asks for your contributions by going online and ordering fresh food to be delivered to the Branford Community Dining Room.

Cleaning for Pesach is like no other cleaning. Getting rid of all chametz requires emptying closets and refrigerators and assuring that not even one bread crumb escapes our brooms and sponges. It is the original “Spring Cleaning.” But those who think it is strictly a physical cleaning are mistaken. We rid ourselves of ‘chametz,’ which are any grains that contain leaven and are therefore ‘puffed up.’ So too, it is while on our hands and knees cleaning the floor, that it is the best time to consider the ways we ‘puff ourselves up,’ with pride and an inflated sense of self and lack of awareness about our weaknesses.

One of the most important lines in the Haggadah is “In every generation we are called upon to see ourselves as though we ourselves escaped from Egypt.” It is a line that shouts out to us today: remember where you came from! Remember that you came from slaves! Remember that you are a child of immigrants! And more: Remember that you yourself are an immigrant. Maybe, just maybe, if we can see ourselves as immigrants we will start treating others with more respect and dignity and welcome.

And one more final line in every Haggadah: “Next year in Jerusalem.” These words were never taken literally. Though it would surely be lovely to make a commitment to spend time in Jerusalem in the coming year, the phrase always reminded us of our hope in something greater than today, greater than the here and now. The Hebrew words “Yerushalayim” translate as “City of Peace.” Would that we could create that city of peace all over the world. What a soaring conclusion to Passover that would be.

My best to you for a zissen Pesach – a joyous and sweet Passover.

Rabbi Offner