Archive | April, 2009

Thinking outside the box of matza

7 Apr

open_door_2Anticipation of the seder night is in the air!

Guests will soon arrive, the house will fill with the smells of the horseradish and the charoset…the table will be set, and the ancient ceremony will begin.

What will be the most memorable moment at this year’s seder?  Many of us will prepare ideas for discussion, props to keep the kids into it,  and even new tunes that we want to try out. We will enjoy the annual traditions, be reminded of seders of Passovers that have passed, and before we know it…the whole experience will be behind us…again.

For me, this year, I am looking for the seder night to inspire me about the year to come.  I want to dwell less on what happened before, and focus more on what is yet to be…and how I can be a part of bringing that about in the coming year.

As we begin the main section of the Magid – the telling of the story of Pesach utilizing the words recited by the bringer of  first fruits in the Temple in Jerusalem (Deut. 26:5-8….we add verse 9 as well to our seder), the voice of the haggadah commands us:     צֵא וּלְמַד מַה בִּקֵּשׁ לָבָן הָאֲרַמִּי לַעֲשֹוֹת לְיַעֲקֹב אָבִינוּ.

“Go out and learn what it was that Lavan the Aramean wanted to do to our father, Yaakov!Pharaoh only wanted to kill the males, Lavan wanted to uproot everything.”

I really like those words: Go out and learn. What do they mean to you?

Here is what they say to me.

Learning that stays within a certain limited framework, that doesn’t demand of us to go out of our personal comfort zones and thresholds of our lives IS NOT LEARNING.

Think about it – how much can I learn if I only read and listen to the information that tells me exactly what it is I want to hear?

Let’s go back to Yaakov…he went back to Aram to find a wife. He worked for many years in order to earn the right to marry both Leah and then Rachel (albeit not the original plan).  And yet, although he worked hard, his life was to a great extent put on hold.  He wasn’t living in Canaan, establishing there a stable, permanent home.  According to Ibn Ezra, this is what the proof text means: “My father was a destitute Aramean.” That is to say, because of his years in Aram by Lavan, he never was able to stabilize his life – and this led to the ultimate need to take his family to Egypt…further destabilizing them…which then led to slavery and near destruction, if it weren’t for the mercy of God.

So what does all of this have to do with Lavan?  It is because of what Lavan did to Yaakov – holding him back for all of those years – that the Jewish people nearly came to an end….now let’s consider – was that really Lavan’s goal?  Probably not.  He was looking out for his own needs, his own desire to hold onto to his daughters, or at least to get some good years of work out of the deal.

And that is the rub…although his intentions were purely selfish, the impact of those decisions nearly destroyed an entire nation.

Thinking outside of the box of matza demands that each of us consider the long-term impact of what it is we are doing now – the decisions that we are making for ourselves and our families.  It might mean thinking thoughts that are not comfortable – considering life-changing moves that will take us way out of our comfort zone – but doing so in the name of tze ulemad – going out from under the covers in order to rethink and reconsider some things that we have perhaps grown way to accustomed to and that are stunting our growth.

I will eat the matza, eat the maror, drink the wine….but not only to remember what what was. As I do, I will attempt to consider what  is still just matza in my life – common, predictable, comfortable –  what is still bitter around me, and what could be even sweeter in the year to come.

Chag Sameah!

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