By Rabbi Mark Borovitz
Last night, I went to a screening of Hava Nagila, the Movie put on by Beit T'Shuvah. On Monday night, we are celebrating Pesach, our liberation from Egypt. What do these two things have in common? I think a lot!
Hava Nagila, the Movie does an amazing job of reclaiming the history of this song that has been a part of the Culture and DNA of Jews for over 150 years. Rather than just dismiss it as kitchy and corny, I found the history of it and the many uses of it in Jewish Culture and beyond, to be illuminating, uplifting and redemptive. While I, like many of us, dread hearing the sounds because of the crush of humanity on the dance floor at a wedding, B'Nai Mitzvah and every Simcha; I was enriched and found myself realizing that this song, which began as a Hassidic Niggun, has inspired us for a long time. It reminds us that no matter what, we have to find the joy of living and celebrate moments of good and Holy that abound when we look for them. I also realized that this crazy tune brings this crush of humanity together like no other. We all get up, we dance, we crush, we sing, in other words, we are together. We redeem joy, happiness, family, friends and community through Hava Nagila. Thank you to Roberta Grossman, Marta Kaufman and all of the people who participated in and donated to make this movie a reality and remind us that we need to keep looking at our history and find the joy, learnings and redeeming qualities in it.
So, what does this have to do with Pesach? A good question. Pesach is our liberation from slavery. We celebrate Pesach, according to our Holy Tradition, "as if we had been liberated from Egypt.” Just as Hava Nagila redeems us from sadness and despair, so too does our celebration of Passover. When and if we take seriously "seeing ourselves as if we too had been liberated from Egypt.” Egypt comes from the root, Tzar, which means 'narrow place.’ So Egypt/Slavery is any place that is so narrow that we are unable to see joy and hope. Egypt is any place where and when we cannot or will not see the whole picture of what is happening. Egypt is any time and place inside of us that is SO SURE we are right that we can't see any other way to live, think, etc. Egypt is any place and time where we feel trapped and believe it is our way or the highway. Any place where we are unable to change and adapt to prevailing conditions while keeping our principles and values intact.
All of us live in Egypt at any given time. All of us need redemption from Egypt and the Slavery we choose and have put on us. All of us need to tell our stories of liberation and redemption at our Seders, not just the historical ones. Just as the movie, Hava Nagila, reminds us of our history and puts Hava Nagila in a new light for today, we have to make the Seder relevant and redemptive. You can do this, I commit to do this. Together, we can leave our own Egypts and Redeem ourselves, our family, our community and the world.
I ask everyone to make a commitment to join me in being Addicted to Redemption and liberating, redeeming and freeing ourselves and others, beginning with our Seders this year. Hag Sameach v'Kasher.
Beit T’Shuvah will be hosting Seders for 3 nights in a row starting this Monday, March 25th. To get your seat at the Seder table visit: www.beittshuvah.org