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Passover: The Quintessential Kehilla Holiday

by Rabbi David J. Cooper

Between our Kehilla’s Annual Community Seder, our on-line downloadable Haggadah, Kehilla takes Passover seriously and provides the means to make it meaningful and accessible to every household. Our Kehilla Home Haggadah is free for anyone to use and is usable even by those who know no Hebrew and includes instructions for a flexible seder that can be geared for people of different ages and backgrounds.

And why? Because Passover is very much what Kehilla is about. It is a rite that is both spiritual and political, small-group and communal. It draws us each year to remember that our tradition begins with the mythos of a struggle for liberation, and it reaffirms that it is not a thing of the past, but that it is incumbent upon us to consider Pharaonic oppression in our time and to commit ourselves to the liberation of all. And Passover affirms what we do throughout the year in Kehilla: prayer, song, serious discussions, joyous laughter and a call to action.

This year, the first night of Passover is a Friday night, April 19, and no activity is planned at the synagogue since this is a time for home seders. The second seder is Saturday evening and for those who want a community seder, Kehilla’s will be that evening. Rabi’a Keeble, a long-time social activist and friend of Kehilla, will join the leadership of the seder along with me, Rabbi Burt and Cantor Linda Hirschhorn. Ms. Keeble is the founder of Qal’bu Maryam, the “women’s mosque” which is actually open to all genders and all faiths. The founding of her mosque is itself a part of a liberation struggle for Muslims within American society and for women’s leadership in Islam. Our theme for the seder is Truth as Resistance.

Many will attend large community seders, and many will have a Passover seder at a home around a table. The Kehilla haggadah for use at home is available on line as a PDF and is easily downloaded here. We recommend downloading the page of instructions and suggestions which will help anyone holding a seder how to customize your seder for the configuration of participants at your table: age, background, degree of familiarity with Jewish ritual. And if you want to learn a few seder prayers and songs, tune in to My Jewish Learning’s files of seder melodies.

“Haggadah” means “Telling.” It doesn’t mean “reading.” The words, songs and prayers of the haggadah should act as a mortar and not the bricks of the celebration. The Kehilla Home Haggadah helps you find a way to encourage sharing stories, thoughts, insights, poetry, music and art as well as children’s activities at the seder. Rushing through a bunch of words to get to the meal misses the whole point. But it also misses the point to slavishly read through long texts of liturgy if they are not stimulating discussion and interaction. The Haggadah says pointedly that each of us must consider that we are today on that exodus story described in the Torah. So we ask what are our involvements and our struggles at this time? Where does our responsibility to be liberators lie at this moment? What do our predecessors, Jewish and non-Jewish, teach us about the road to freedom? How is our path to be replete with laughter, song and joy, as well as determination and persistence?

The values that Passover celebrates and reinforces are not for just those seven or eight days. They are for the entire year and every day. But how great it is that we have this time set aside, a consecrated period, to get together and consciously celebrate our continuing efforts toward liberation. Happy Pesach! Chag sameyach!

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