Posts Tagged 'Haggadah'

Passover Selfie

I have noticed recently that we as a society have been talking a lot about the rise of the “selfie”. This is ironic in that we are talking about ourselves taking pictures of ourselves. It is as if we have ensnared ourselves in a viscous Narcissistic loop. And yes I mean that  literally and  literarily. It seems that with the advent of technology that allows us to capture our every move we are more interested in documenting the lives we are living then just living those lives. We are so busy preparing to remember the moment that we are never actually in the moment.

Recently I saw a wonderful campaign by the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews. On their website they wrote:

By now we’re sure you’ve heard of the selfie fad sweeping social media. Everyone from kids to celebrities are jumping in on the fun. This trend got The Fellowship wondering what it would look like if, instead of focusing on ourselves, the trend focused on the needs of others. We invite you to join us in our quest to reinvent the selfie and celebrate selflessness. We will be sharing images of people who help make the lives of others better, as well as those whose lives are forever changed by actions of love, kindness, and generosity.

 Simply put they want people to post their  own #Unselfie on Facebook or Twitter. While I think there is a lot to say in terms of advocating and educating people to be more altruistic, is the rise of the selfie synonymous with the rise of being more selfish.

I ask this because I just got a wonderful cute Holiday e-card from the good people over that the Schusterman Foundation.  Along with the following cartoons they were asking people to take Selfies of themselves doing Passover  to post their  own #PassoverSelfie on Facebook or Twitter. I have to admit that I did not get the top right picture right away, but then I realized it was a Selfie of Pharaoh during the plague of darkness.

Passover SelfieI particularly love the picture of the bottom left. It is funny to imagine Moshe taking a moment to take a selfie as he is going through the miraculous divided sea. But why is this so funny? Well it seems self-absorbed to not just take in the miracle as compared to the compulsion to capture and share this moment with others.

Then I got to thinking about the very enterprise of having a Seder and I started to reconsider my anti-Selfie judgement. What is driving us to have a Seder. We learn in the Talmud:

B’CHOL DOR VADOR CHAYAV ADAM LEEROT ET ATZMO K’EELU HU YATZA MEE-MITZRAYIM- In every generation one must look upon him/herself as if s/he personally had gone out of Egypt .” (Pesachim 116b)

To fulfill this we have a Seder every year to preserve/create this memory. We see in books like Prof Yershalmi’s Haggadah and History that every generation rewrote their Haggadot to speak to the very issues of their generation. I think this is easy to see through The Four Children by Noam Zion – There you can see artistic representations of the four children throughout history. How they depict the four children tells us a lot about how they see themselves. In this way the Haggadah itself is a pre-Techonologic Selfie which helped every generation take a picture of themselves and share it through the media of the time so that they could look upon themselves as if they personally had gone out of Egypt.  If you are so moved I wanted to encourage you to do the same. Go to and make your own Haggadah/Selfie. For some of use technology frees us from slavery and for others technology has become  the new slave master. We need to find a balance between living in the moment and reflecting on that moment. Have a liberating and meaningful Passover.


The Tardy Animal

On Shabbat Chol HaMoed we read a section of Parshat Ki Tisa (Exodus 33:12- 34: 26). The portion that we read is post Golden Calf Incident (GCI). We read of the creation of the second tablets which seem to speak to the repairing the relationship post GCI. What is the meaning of recalling the GCI on Passover?

Earlier in the portion in Ki Tisa we read:

And when the people saw that Moses delayed to come down from the mount, the people gathered themselves together unto Aaron, and said unto him: ‘Up, make us a god who shall go before us; for as for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we know not what is become of him.’  (Exodus 32:1)

For people who had just experienced so many tremendous miracles they seem pretty quick to make an idol. But that is secondary to their leaving no room for Moses being tardy. Have any of us known any world leader who is actually punctual?

In our context of Chag HaMatzot– Passover the Holiday of Unleavened Bread- their not excusing Moses running late is particularly poignant. Why do we eat Matzah on Passover? As we read in the Haggadah:

Because the dough of our fathers did not have time to become leavened before the King of the kings, the Holy One, blessed be God, revealed God’s self to them and redeemed them. Thus it is said: “They baked Matzah-cakes from the dough that they had brought out of Egypt, because it was not leavened; for they had been driven out of Egypt and could not delay, and they had also not prepared any [other] provisions.” (DIY Haggadah)

So yes, when the time came for them to finally leave they did not delay, but that final plague was not the first time they heard of their pending exodus. Moses came and told the slaves that they will be leaving before all of those plagues. While they did not have Tupperware to pack great provisions for the trip, why did they not prepare a little better? You think they would have prepared some bagels for the trip, they travel quite well.  It seems that is was not only Pharaoh who did not believe in the God of the Israelites. The slaves themselves procrastinated in getting ready to leave the world they knew. While we call it the bread of affliction, the affliction is procrastination. We all run late and wait until the last-minute to get things done, or worse did not believe we were actually leaving until it was too late to prepare.

So we have Chag HaMatzot a holiday that you cannot do last-minute. We actually start to prepare for Passover a month in advance. As we eat this “bread of procrastination” we should remember where we were in terms of our faith and be more forgiving of Moses who was running a little late receiving the Tablets on Har Sinai. When I am running late or procrastinating I assume that other people will understand because I am doing God’s work, but God forbid someone wastes my time. We all have to work on this double standard. Maybe if we work on this quality we will bring the Messiah a little faster, thou s/he may tarry.

When We Dip: Another Take on Karpas

We have finished the first of our four glasses of wine. We have just sat down after the first of the two hand washings. Now, we partake of a vegetable dipped in salt water or vinegar. With the blessing of borei pri ha’adamah on our lips and the first sign of spring in our hands, we eat our first food of the evening.  Like a reenactment of Persephone’s return from Hades, we connect to this first taste of spring. However, our excitement of this rite of spring is overshadowed by the salty taste reminding us of the sweaty, backbreaking labor of slavery.

But what of those who dip in vinegar? How are they to connect the vinegar to a deeper message about the day or the ritual of dipping? There is a story from the Talmud that seems pertinent to us in this moment. We learn:

Once, four hundred jars of wine belonging to Rav Huna turned sour. Rav Yehudah, the brother of Rav Sala the Pious, and the other scholars—some say: Rav Adda ben Ahava and the other scholars—went in to visit him [Rav Huna] and said to him: The master ought to examine his actions.

He [Rav Huna] said to them: Am I suspect in your eyes?

They replied: Is the Holy One, blessed be God, suspect of punishing without justice?

He [Rav Huna] said to them: If somebody has heard of anything against me, let him speak out.

They replied: We have heard that the master does not give his tenant his [lawful share in the] vine twigs [i.e., fair wages for his work].

He replied: Does he leave me any? He [the tenant farmer] steals them all!

They said to him: That is exactly what people say: If you steal from a thief you also have a taste of it!

He said to them: I pledge myself to give it to him [in the future]. Some report that thereupon the vinegar became wine again; others that the vinegar went up so high [in value] that it was sold for the same price as wine. (Berachot 5b)

Rav Huna, a third-century CE amora, was unwilling to see his misfortune as mere happenstance. As the head of the Academy in Sura, it is clear that Rav Huna wanted to improve himself. After some coaxing, his peers informed him that he was not providing the tenants of his vineyard what was perceived as a fair wage. So, instead of punishing the tenants for stealing from him, Rav Huna paid them a fair wage. The taste of the vinegar was a reminder to Rav Huna to be meticulous in his business dealings, and the ensuing miracle speaks to the significance of his redemptive act.

While there are profound demands on us to see to an end to dire poverty, the very same Rav Huna challenges us to say that this is not enough. We learn:

When he [Rav Huna] had a meal he would open the door wide and declare, “Whosoever is in need let him come and eat.” (Taanit 20b)

It was not just on Passover that Rav Huna opened up his home to the needy. Rav Huna also teaches us that we need to be punctilious in business dealings and not just focus on the most needy or impoverished. Every working person needs to be paid a fair wage, especially those responsible for bringing food to our tables. Rav Huna further teaches us to open our homes and our hearts not only to those who are starving, but to anyone in need. Passover is an occasion for us to reflect on our behavior throughout the whole year. If we allow ourselves to taste the vinegar of the karpas, we will come to taste freedom all year.

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