Rabbi Elkin's Shabbat Message - April 12, 2024

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Rabbi Elkin's Shabbat Message - April 12, 2024

As I visited my parents this past weekend in Dallas, I watched my father engage in a decades-old Passover family tradition: measuring the dimensions of the living room to properly configure the tables and chairs to accommodate all of their seder guests. Each family has their own version of this custom, whether it involves counting all of the spare chairs in the house, rummaging through cabinets to find the seder plates and haggadot, or frantically cleaning the layer of chametz crumbs in the pantry. As spring rolls in, we begin our Passover preparations.

Rosh Chodesh Nissan, the start of the month of Nissan when Passover occurs, landed last Tuesday, pushing Jewish time into the two-week window before the first night seder. One Jewish tradition teaches us that, when Nissan begins, we should start telling the story of the Exodus to put us in the mindset of teaching the story and themes of the holiday: freedom, redemption, and springtime rebirth. As we retell the story in the leadup to and during the seder, we are meant to experience it as though we were slaves in Egypt, contemplating and asking questions about liberation: how are we slaves today? What enslaves us in our lives? Where do we see oppression in our world? How can we participate in the liberation and freedom of those around us?

We are not meant to ask these questions from a purely theoretical or academic perspective, but rather with a focus on taking actions of positive change in the world. We don’t just talk about liberation, we help bring about liberation. These actions, however, can feel a bit overwhelming. We may feel unsure of where to start, where to turn first, or how we can help when our capabilities feel insignificant against the great challenges of the world. This year in particular, we think of our Jewish family still held hostage in Gaza, who are in desperate need of a liberation that we wish we could give. But the early stages of the Passover holiday remind us to take national and global liberation one step at a time.

Each year, we perform bedikat chametz, searching and cleansing the house of bread products, as the first ritual of Passover. We go around to each shelf of the pantry, the refrigerator and freezer, and scrape away the crust that has built up over the last year to start fresh. This ritual acts as a spiritual cleansing as well, and it gives us concrete baby steps in this season of freedom: before we can liberate the world, we start by liberating our kitchens. We can take this little corner of our world to care for and set straight. It may be small, but it reminds us of our ability to affect change and empowers us to look for the next step that follows.

May this Shabbat bring you and your family rest, reflection, and empower you to take on the liberation of the Passover season. Or at least get a jump on your spring cleaning.

Shabbat shalom,
Rabbi Hannah Elkin