Thursday, March 22, 2012

What's Your Path? Four New Questions for the Seder - Thursday Kavvanah, 3/22/2012

Every one of us has a different path through life in general, and through Jewish life in particular. Sometimes, it's a good idea to perform a quick self-check, to remind ourselves: Where am I going? Why am I here? How do I connect?

Admittedly, finding an interesting homiletic point buried in the Torah's graphic details of sacrificial offerings, which have not taken place for two millennia, is a challenge. Parashat Vayyiqra identifies the five major types of offerings that the Israelites could bring to the Temple when it stood in Jerusalem:

עֹלָה - olah, the burnt offering
מִנְחָה - minhah, the grain offering
זֶבַח שְׁלָמִים - zevah shelamim, the well-being offering
חַטָּאת - hattat, the sin offering
אָשָׁם - asham, the guilt offering

Each of these sacrifices was brought to the kohanim / priests by an individual who had a specific reason for bringing it.  Likewise today, we each have our own individual reasons for participating in Jewish life: some come to the synagogue to remember deceased loved ones, some want to teach their children about Judaism, some are committed to a ritual routine, and so forth.

In two short weeks (whose idea was it to put Pesah the week before tax day?), the single most popular Jewish ritual of the year will take place.  The seder is something like the Superbowl of Judaism: with upwards of 80% of American Jews participating, there are more of us around the table than at any other time.  As such, it's an opportunity to help each other re-connect, and to that end, I'd like to suggest four questions to ask at your seder, perhaps as a supplement to the traditional Four Questions, or even in place of:

1.  What are the ideas or principles or relationships that bring us back to the seder, year after year?

2.  What are the memories of Jewish life, from Passover or otherwise, that keep us connected?

3.  What are the Jewish values that we regularly call upon, particularly in secular contexts?

4.  What can we all do to help each other re-connect, or deepen our connections?

Now discuss!  You might be surprised to hear the range of paths of those around the table.  Shabbat shalom!

Rabbi Seth Adelson

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