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Let My People Go! -- CHRONICLE Online/The WORD 04/18/24

Weekly On-line Rabbi's D'var-Torah


April 18, 2024

10 Nisan 5784

Shabbat Hagadol

Parashat Metzora

I remember very clearly adding a reading called “The Matzah of Hope” to our Passover Seders when I was growing up. It spoke of the 3 million Soviet Jews who could not celebrate Passover. It gave special significance to the words “Let my people go,” in the Seder liturgy. We have always understood that the lessons of Passover are not just history. They must be applied to the contemporary context.


Well, we know that the Soviet Union ultimately fell and many of those Jews who wished to leave were able to leave. Many of them made their way to Israel and the US. Our prayers for them were answered.


Today, we once again find ourselves in a similar situation. When we tell the story of redemption and freedom, it’s hard not to think about the remaining hostages in Gaza. How can there be a Festival of Freedom when our brothers and sisters are not free?


So, as we have always done, we add to the Passover liturgy in order to speak to current events. There are many suggestions as to how we can do this. One idea is to tie a yellow ribbon around the stem of your wine glass. Each cup represents one of God’s promises of redemption. The ribbon forces us to think about the hostages when we remember God’s previous acts of redemption.


Another possibility is to add a lemon to the Seder plate. It is the color that Israelis are using to raise awareness for the hostages and it leaves a bitter taste in the mouth—just like the hostage situation.

And of course, we add readings. Hadassah is suggesting that we add an extra piece of matzah just as we did years ago for Soviet Jews. This time, it is called “The Matzah of Healing.” Together with the Israel Committee, I put together a Seder Supplement with that reading as well as some others. Hopefully, the hostages will soon know freedom just as the Soviet Jews did a generation ago.

Best wishes for a happy and meaningful Passover celebration.




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