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Rumi, the Persian poet of the soul, understands the meaning of love in this way:
Your task is not to seek love
But merely to seek and ﬁnd all the barriers
That you have built against it.
The same can be said of freedom; we build barriers against it, barriers born of fear-fear of death, fear of not having enough, fear of not being enough, fear...
This symbolic washing of the hands recalls the story of Miriam's Well. Legend tells us that this well followed Miriam, sister of Moses, through the desert, sustaining the Jews in their wanderings. Filled with mayim chayim, waters of life, the well was a source of strength and renewal to all who drew from it. One drink from its waters was said to alert the heart, mind and soul, and make the meaning of Torah become...
The central imperative of the Seder is to tell the story. The Bible instructs: “ You shall tell your child on that day, saying: ‘This is because of what Adonai did for me when I came out of Egypt.' ” (Exodus 13:8) We relate the story of our ancestors to regain the memories as our own. Elie Weisel writes: God created man because He loves stories. We each have a story to tell — a story of enslavement, struggle,...
Welcome to Sinai. As you have just crossed the Red Sea, you have had to make many hard choices: freedom or slavery? Pettiness or tolerance? Materialism or life. In many ways, we are in shock of our recent actions. We find ourselves reflecting on what we’ve done. Did we really just leave Egypt? Did a band of slaves—no—ex-slaves really push the leader of one of the greatest empires of our time to let his workforce...
The Generous Child
The generous child knows all about food justice and donates much of their monthly allowance to charity. This child encourages their parents to volunteer, brings the most cans in during school food drives, and never eats too much.
The Spoiled Child
The spoiled child knows and understands food justice, but chooses not to care. This child is selfish, easily upset by not...
The most devastating effect of slavery, ultimately, is that the slave internalizes the master's values and accepts the condition of slavery as his proper status. People who live in chronic conditions of poverty, hunger, and sickness tend to show similar patterns of acceptance and passivity. As with slaves,their deprivation deprives from their political and economic status and then becomes moral and psychological...
Throughout our history, violence and persecution have driven the Jewish people to wander in search of a safe place to call home. We are a refugee people. At the Passover Seder, we gather to retell the story of our original wandering and the freedom we found. But we do not just retell the story. We are commanded to imagine ourselves as though we, personally, went forth from Egypt – to imagine the experience of being...
Korech: Mixing the Bitter and the Sweet
One of my favorite moments of the seder comes just before dinner is served. It is called Korech. It is also known as the Hillel sandwich. It is the moment when we eat maror (the bitter herbs) and the charoset (the sweet apple and nut mixture) on a piece of matzah. What a strange custom to eat something so bitter and something so sweet all in one...
Many refugees find themselves in multiple countries before they find a permanent place to begin rebuilding their lives. If they do not speak the language in those countries, refugees face even greater challenges finding employment, and everyday tasks like filling out forms or trying to purchase food can feel nearly impossible. Children confront language barriers in school. The language of instruction may be the language...
This piece was written by Rabbi Elliot Kukla, the first out transgender rabbi. He was ordained in 2006 at HUC-JIR’s Los Angeles campus, and now works as a chaplain at the Bay Area Jewish Healing Center.
A few years ago at Kol Nidre I delivered a sermon on the power of diversity to my congregation in Toronto. Afterwards, in the swirling crowd I felt someone tug at my jacket. I turned around to find a...
I will redeem you... ...
Emboldened to welcome refugees into our communities, may we remember that true welcome is not completed upon a person’s safe arrival in our country but in all the ways we help people to rebuild their lives. As God provided for our needs on the long journey from slavery to the Promised Land, let us give the refugees in our communities the tools they need not just to survive but to...