Pesach - the Hebrew name for Passover-- comes from the Hebrew root PSH which means to skip over, to pass over. It appears first in the context of the ten plagues, in which God skipped over the homes of the Israelites while the rest of Egypt suffered.
In the spiritual realm, they tell you there are no coincidences -- everything that happens to us holds a divine message. What could be the message in this unusual sequence of events: a little barbecue party for two young girls who were caught in a Jerusalem bombing, followed by a masterful presentation on the final days of global redemption?
The episode of the Akedah, or the binding of Isaac, presents so many difficult questions. One of the most basic is: For whom is this human and Divine drama staged?
The disengagement or expulsion has ended. But is this also the end of religious Zionism? Are there lessons we can and must learn that may enable us to emerge stronger from this most difficult period?
The first lesson we learned is that we are indeed one nation. There was no real violence, and there was even majestic fortitude and an exaltation of spirit displayed by many Gush Katif settlers and leaders.
On the other side of the barricades, only a small number of soldiers refused to carry out military evacuation orders, despite the charge to do so from major rabbinic voices; the soldiers and police behaved with incredible sensitivity and restraint.
It was heart wrenching but uplifting, a period in which I was both tear-filled and pride-filled to be an Israeli Jew.
I once counseled a young man through what he later understood to be the most profound and transformative moment of his life: He was abandoned, without explanation or apology, by his beloved fiancée. After a crushing year, he came back to tell me that he realized, in retrospect, that his heart had to be broken, shattered to pieces, in order for light to be able to come in. As he spoke, I envisioned a beautiful clay vase, intricately painted on the outside, but dark and empty inside. This man realized, through his suffering, that the life he had thought was whole had actually been hollow, a realization that opened up for him the possibility of healing, of growth, of new relationships -- both with future partners and with God.
Sixteen years ago, Mark Borovitz was in prison for the second time. A Cleveland native, he began selling stolen goods for the Cleveland mob out of his high school locker, then graduated to con games and hustles. In prison, he came under the influence of Rabbi Mel Silverman and began a return to faith that culminated, after his release, in his earning a rabbinical degree.
When we open our doors at the seder and invite Elijah the Prophet to sip the glass of wine that we have designated for him, we express our longing for
the Messiah. Elijah, in our tradition, will herald the arrival of a ruler who will enable a world of peace. The message of the seder is of hope: God, the Creator, entered history to free us from bondage, providing reason to believe that God will re-enter history to facilitate the final redemption.
In this week's Torah portion, Vayechi, we have the most intimate description of a deathbed scene and the most elaborate description of a le'vayah (funeral) contained in the Torah.
"Under Radar" by Michael Tolkin (Atlantic Monthly Press, $23).
Recently, I heard Michael Tolkin speak at Temple Beth Am about "Under Radar." Pacing frenetically, he explained that midway through the writing he had stalled and shelved the manuscript. During that time, slipping on his own spiritual path -- parallel to the novel's -- he had ransacked various synagogues for answers and had succeeded only in worrying his wife.
This coming week begins "the nine days," the period of intense mourning leading up to Tisha B'av, the fast of Av, which takes place on the following Thursday, July 18.
As we exit Purim and enter into Passover, we find ourselves in the season of redemption. In the words of the Talmud, we are ben geulah ligeulah (between redemptions).
Tisha B'Av, the fast day commemorating the destructions of the First and Second Temples in Jerusalem 2,500 and 2,000 years ago, respectively, doesn't rank up there with most celebrated Jewish holidays.
Want to be a partner in redemption? Then don't overlook a surprising message in this week's parsha.
When we arrive in heaven, the Talmudic sages wondered, what will God ask of us?
I despise 'Schindler's List' because it ends on a redemptive note, and I don't see the slightest bit of redemption in the Shoah...There's all this nonsense out there about healing, but I don't want to heal anything. I want to rip open the stitches. I want readers to bleed."
Don't get author Melvin Jules Bukiet started about the cliché of the sad-eyed Holocaust survivor.
At noon on Sunday the Passover Posse will tromp through the lobby of the Skirball Cultural Center.
Let me be direct and come to the point right off the mark:
"Seven Years in Tibet," appropriately filmed in Argentina -- whereold Nazis go to be rehabilitated or to die, whichever comes first --is a turgid piece of filmmaking and as dishonest as, well, "TheDevil's Own," Brad Pitt's last outing on film.