Some claim that the Passover seder is the most widely observed Jewish ritual. But once the seder is over, not as many Jews continue to abstain from eating hametz (bread and other leavened products) and even fewer attend Passover services. We had a small number in attendance for our service on the first day of Passover (Tuesday, April 11) but we need to have at least a minyan (10 people) for our service on the seventh day of Passover (Monday, April 17). I urge you to come at 7:00 pm for a one-hour service which will also include a yizkor (memorial) service.
Given our busy schedules and many other demands, we have to think carefully about how we spend our time. When we’re not relaxing, we try to use our time for things that have some practical benefit. Reciting prayers from a siddur may not be the most practical activity, but “showing up” for a person or group of people in need is no less important.
In the old days (and in traditional communities today) the prevailing belief was/is that Jewish men are actually “commanded” to engage in communal prayer. Today, however, most people don’t like to be commanded to do anything. There was a sense of religious obligation which once held sway, but is no longer as compelling for most Jews as it once was.
In the past few generations (and in traditional communities today) there was/is also a sense of social obligation. Even if one did not feel commanded engage in prayer or other rituals, there was sense that s/he was expected by family or peers to do so. Today, however, fewer people respond to social obligations and expectations. And being “guilted” into doing something, doesn’t work so well either.
So what does work? What can cause us to do something that does not fall into the category of work, family, personal responsibilities or recreation?
The answer is love. We are often willing and able to do incredible things to express our love for other beings or causes beyond our most immediate circle of family and friends. This altruistic impulse is natural and universal, though it is often overrun by self-centered impulses, or worse. But this is what connects us to one another, to our Temple, to our tradition and to God.
It is this “generosity of spirit” that is a core Jewish value and is exactly what prayers and other religious rituals are intended to cultivate. The more we can open our hearts and “show up” for a person or group of people in need, the better off we are as individuals and as a community.
Passover is a time for transformation; for freeing ourselves from the egoic impulses represented by Pharaoh. Please join us for the opportunities we have during Passover to transform ourselves and our community – in and through love.
Shabbat Shalom and Chag Pesach Sameach!
R’ Moshe Tom