Online Passover Seder 2020
Although our 2nd Night Community Passover Seder at the synagogue has been cancelled, we will have a virtual Passover Seder to share with you by video. The socially-distanced Passover Seder was pre-recorded by Rabbi Martin Levy and Cantor Ephraim Herrera, with Elisheva Herrera. You may enjoy this short service on either night, Wednesday, April 8 or Thursday, April 9 at the time of your choice. Please click here to view our online services.
Passover 2020 in Santa Fe
By Rabbi Martin Levy
I love the tastes, aromas, and memories of the Passover holiday. This first night of the Seder speaks of spring cleaning, the story of freedom, and matzah ball soup. Surely there is more to the Passover saga than gustatory wonders. At this moment in American history, we are focused on health, on social distancing, on helping our neighbors and strangers find safety and proper medical care. This is an echo of the Exodus story, for we read “you shall know the heart of the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.” The details of the Exodus story, embedded in the first thirteen chapters of the book of Exodus, resonate with us this week, as we strive to protect our families and fellow citizens throughout our community.
Personal memories flood my Passover experience. Growing up in a kosher household, we had another kitchen in our basement which contained all the Passover wares. That meant changing all the dishes, silverware, pots and pans, and scouring the shelves of regular kitchen to make it “clean” for Passover. It was my task to bring all of the Passover dishes up from the basement and present them to my Mother for washing. In those days we spent at least three days cleaning and preparing for the first night Seder meal.
We are commanded to recite the freedom story to our children and grandchildren, to remind everyone that we were once slaves in Egypt. Commentaries and mystical thoughts permeate the Passover story. For instance the “four questions” mentioned in the 1st century Mishna text, begins: “Why is this night different from all other nights?” The four questions described in the first century tell us that “on all other nights we eat boiled, roasted, or cooked meat. On this night we eat only roasted meat.” The Mishna speaks of the roasted meat because of the Jerusalem Temple’s sacrificial system of worship—citizens would bring the best of their cattle and flocks to the Temple to be offered to the Almighty as a symbol of faithfulness to the Bible’s teachings. Such practices ended after the Romans’ assault on Jerusalem in the year 70, and Jews offered a series of prayers in honor of the holiday. This recitation of prayers became a template for future Western religions. So our Passover story changed, as the Jewish people went into exile in Babylonia and other parts of southern Europe.
What are the crucial questions we ask this Passover night, as we gather in small family groups to reinforce our traditions? Why is this night so different? On this night we battle a plague, a “dever” in Hebrew. Though holidays are a communal experience, this night we must be socially distanced to protect every soul. To share matzah and “haroses,” the honeyed apples and nuts mortar, that speaks of building in Egypt, reminds us that life can be turned upside down in a moment. We are fragile, the gift of life is not a guarantee of success, and we need to appreciate the joys of our existence even while staying at home. On all other nights we eat all manner of herbs, on this night, only bitter herbs. On all other nights we remind ourselves of the tears of slavery. On this night we focus on sustaining the vulnerable citizens in our community. How can we uplift the elderly, the hungry, and the homeless? How do we care for those who have not seen their loved ones in many weeks? On this night we reaffirm that kindness, compassion, righteousness and generosity will overcome the shadows of our present-day plague. We echo the power of Jeremiah’s words‑—with “chesed, mishpat, and tze’dakah” we will move towards a better future. With loving kindness, justice, and righteousness we can strengthen our neighbors and regain our freedom.