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I know (that) one!

08/25/2021 03:27:12 PM


When I think of a Passover Seder, particularly the Maggid section, I have memories of each participant around the table taking turns to read passages from our tradition - sometimes in Hebrew and sometimes in English. One of those passages that we read is taken from this week’s portion, parshat Ki Tavo, about an ancestor who was a wandering Aramean, whose family went down to Egypt where they were treated harshly, and God took out his descendants with signs and wonders. Of course, this ancestor is Jacob and his descendants are the Israelites who were enslaved in Egypt. Perhaps you have a similar memory or know the Passover Haggadah well enough. But when we read these words at the Seder, we don’t just quote Scripture. Rather, we read them in the context of the Midrashic commentary of some of Judaism’s earliest rabbis. Thus, in that moment, we encounter the biblical words of our tradition, some rabbinic perspectives, and of course our own contemporary perspective. In such a way, a person can say that the Haggadah is a living document. It is a source that is still studied and discussed and still on the lips of Jews today. Found not just in the American Haggadah, but also in a Harry Potter Hagaddah, or a baseball Haggadah, or whatever perspective that gets applied that year. If only the other sources of our tradition were as common in the mouths of the Jewish community! If only we felt as comfortable in the Jewish conversation as we do quoting sports stats or political takes!

Each week, we return to the same Torah portions that we read at this same time last year. One might suspect that having already read the book, we already know all it’s information. Yet, what the Passover Haggadah teaches us is the depth of our Jewish tradition. Even though we encounter this same passage from our portion year after year, each time we read it, we have the opportunity to apply new perspectives and new understandings to the text. The original function of this “wandering Aramean” passage was a brief history that was said when a person brought their first-fruits to the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. Now, however, it is used as a springboard to talk about our slavery in Egypt, and God’s role in our redemption. Or perhaps you have a different approach to this passage? What’s great about our tradition is that the conversation is always evolving, and new voices are also being added to our pages. And, fortunately, our tradition is deeper than just this one passage from Deuteronomy! So, go and learn, and add your voice to our rich conversation we call Judaism.

Sat, May 25 2024 17 Iyyar 5784