Vail Valley Voices: The meaning of Seder
On Monday evening, Jews the world over will be celebrating the first night of Passover with a traditional meal called the Seder.
During the Seder, we observe various traditions such as eating the matzah – an unleavened cracker – with horseradish and drinking four cups of wine. All of these rituals are reminders of the Jewish people’s exodus from Egypt 3,321 years ago. Our ancestor’s miraculous escape from oppression to freedom has served as a source of inspiration for many generations and will do so for many more to come.
A central theme of this holiday is asking questions and providing relevant answers so that children will understand the significance of this celebration.
I, however, find myself asking year after year the same question: What meaning does an ancient story and its associated ceremony hold for the average American in 2010? How can we look at events that transpired so long ago and still be spiritually inspired by them?
The answer lies in the Talmudic dictum: In every generation a person must feel as if he or she was liberated from Egypt.
In other words, we have a responsibility to make an ancient experience important to us living in modern times. We achieve this by recognizing that the imprisonment from which the ancient Hebrews sought emancipation is conceptually still present.
Slavery finds many forms and takes on various appearances. In days of old, it was depicted by a whip-toting taskmaster hovering over a slave with a chain wrapped around his ankle.
Today, bondage is often found in our jobs, relationships and attitudes where we find ourselves addicted to a certain negative trait and find it excruciatingly difficult to break free. Then there are those who are enslaved to material items and cannot possibly fathom life without them. Are these not the modern-day equivalent of slavery?
Therefore, every year as we begin the holiday of Passover and the celebration of freedom, we are reminded that the stories we recount and the rituals we observe are more about a commitment to the present than reminiscing about the past.
During this time of year, we once again reaffirm our obligation to fight all forms of bigotry, negativity and slavery, be they within or without. And most important, we devote ourselves to being positive members of society at a time when we all crave the most priceless blessing of all: peace on earth.
P.S.: Chabad Jewish Center of Vail will be providing matzos for anyone in need, free of charge. Everybody deserves to rejoice and observe the holiday of freedom with a little less concern. Please call Chabad to arrange pickup.
Rabbi Dovid Mintz is the co-director of the Jewish Community Center, Chabad Vail. He can be reached at 970-476-7887. For more information visit http://www.jewishvail.com.