March 29, 2007
The seder offers 15 steps toward empowerment
(Page 2 - Previous Page)14) Hallel. Psalms of praise. Though we chant Hallel at night, and while seated, the chanting should serve as a reminder in our own lives of the importance of being positive. Too often we become critical of others, if not ourselves. The power of positive thinking has been proven, let alone the power, if not holiness, of being positive to one another. To become ambassadors of good, constructive thought and disposition, the Passover Seder is a good place to start.
15) Nirtzah. The conclusion. This is arguably the most important part of the Passover seder.
Not because people are sated and tired, but because holy time and space have limitations. I have always felt the most important part of Shabbat is Havdalah, and the most important part of Yom Kippur is the sounding of the shofar. Not that we wish these days to end, but that God created us to live in the world; a world unsuspended by a constant state of holiness, enmeshed in prayer, community and theoretical thought.
To take the renewed spirit that comes from these Passover days and use them to more fully engage in the day-to-day world of our existence, that is the challenge we face. Shabbat comes once a week; Passover once a year.
They are spiritual "magnetos," propelling us forward, one holy day to the next.
Very few things in life are either all or nothing. Use these 15 steps as a means of empowerment, not as a burden or a weight around your neck squeezing the joy and holiness out of the gathering. Passover is a seasonal, time-bound holiday that is timeless in its many nuanced messages. One message speaks of liberation and freedom -- improvement for all humanity. So, how do you begin to accomplish that lofty goal? How do you make God's world a little better?
If Passover teaches us anything, one place to start is in your home, seated around the dinner table.
Michael Gotlieb is rabbi of Kehillat Ma'arav Synagogue in Santa Monica.
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