Thoughts for April/Nissan 2017/5777

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As we enter fully into this month of Nisan and beyond we will have opportunities to dialogue, organize, learn and pray, celebrate and wrestle with what the ideas of oppression and liberation in our personal lives, in our nation- increasingly challenged in this regard and in the larger world. As Moshe, Aaron, Miriam and our ancestors did in their time, we can take on poverty, inequity, leadership that oppresses those with less advantage, means or treats any of us as “other”, while not diverting energy from our own individual and collective spiritual journey and longing to live a life of meaning and purpose, serving Truth-Values-Spirit-God.

We not only have a historic narrative of moving from slavery to becoming a liberated people for whom an “erev rav” or “mixed multitude of all who wished to leave” were welcome to join us- we also have modern “Mitzrayim/Egypt”, which means “narrow place” in Hebrew, and modern Pharaohs. The power of Passover, the most celebrated Jewish festival within and increasingly beyond the Jewish world, is our connection to the transformative power that calls us towards freedom, celebrate our simultaneously ancient and ever-relevant Seder rituals and to link arms with all who desire to break the shackles of any internally or externally limiting oppression.

In concrete action terms through our work in POWER, New Sanctuary Movement, and HIAS, there are a number of actions and activities coming up this month as part of the one hundred days of training for action launched right after the inauguration. In particular on Tuesday, April 4th, the 49th anniversary of the assignation of Reverend Dr. King, there will be an action at city hall. I want to also give a shout out to Lisa Zahren, Judith Bernstein-Baker and others of our members who have formed a refugee response team at Mishkan Shalom last month (check Ma Hadash for details).

Our spring community meeting, gives us a pre-Pesach opportunity to gather and reflect on how our 5777 year of engagement through strength is going, Wednesday April 5th, 6-8pm. We officially stop eating leavened bread products the morning before the first Seder of Pesach, Monday night April 10th with the first Seder (and your Reconstructionist Haggadah) later that night. We celebrate the Shabbat of Passover, April 15th with added psalms of joy and that afternoon Pause and Refresh Your Soul at our home where we will dip into some additional seasonal gems of learning and spiritual practice.

For the first time since 2014 I will be leading a special 7th night Seder, (please eat before) Sunday April 16th, 7pm, beginning with a short evening service and Yizkor at Mishkan Shalom. In Jewish mystical tradition it became customary to commemorate the miracle of the splitting of the sea, which occurred according to the Sages on the 7th day of Passover. We will use the 7th night Haggadah of Rabbi Rayzel and Dr. Simcha Raphael for this additional and wonderful chapter in the Exodus experience. Pesach continues through the end of April 17th or 18th (depending on whether you celebrate 7 days of Passover as in Israel, the Reform and much of the Reconstructionist Movements, or eight days as in traditional Judaism outside of Judaism). Quite wonderfully- our month ends Saturday morning, April 29th with the baby naming of the Katz-Love and Mann newborns and that night with our annual Sounds of Peace and Justice Concert featuring Heartbeat and the annual Inter-faith Peace Walk the next day. This is a perfect bookend to the message of freedom and spring’s rebirth that Pesach offers us.

I look forward to seeing you at Mishkan Shalom for one or many of the services, programs and actions in the month ahead. I offer you in a renewed spirit of opening our tables, homes and hearts to all this Passover, an alternative take to the moment in our Passover Seder where we historically called out of a place of persecution for God’s Power to intervene. It is a timely to replace the part of the Haggadah where we, in our time or persecution, asked for our persecutors to be undermined, with another take on how to come from love and hope to build the society and world we strive for:

This remarkable passage, which is quoted in the Haggadah entitled A Different Night, by Noam Zion and David Dishon, is said to have first appeared in a medieval (1521) Ashkenazi Haggadah from Worms. This inclusion may have been due to the fact that there is known to have been close contact at that time between Jewish and Christian mystics and a sharing of mystical traditions.


שְׁפֹךְ אַהֲבָתְךָ עַל הַגּוֹיִים אֲשֶׁר יְדָעוּךָ

וְעַל מַמְלָכוֹת אֲשֶׁר בְּשִׁמְךָ קוֹרְאִים

בִּגְלַל חֲסָדִים שֶׁהֵם עוֹשִׂים עִם יַעֲקֹב

וּמְגִנִּים עַל עַמְּךָ יִשְׂרָאֵל מִפְּנֵי אוֹכְלֵיהֶם.

יִזְכּוּ לִרְאוֹת בְּסֻכַּת בְּחִירֶיךָ

וְלִשְׂמֹחַ בְּשִׂמְחַת גּוֹיֶיךָ.

Pour out Your love on the nations that know You
And on the kingdoms that call upon Your Name
For the loving-kindness that they perform with Jacob
And their defense of the People of Israel
In the face of those that would devour them.
May they be privileged to see
The Sukkah of peace spread for Your chosen ones
And rejoice in the joy of Your nations.

I pray each of you finds new meaning, joy and deepened connections with those who gather with you for our annual pilgrimage out of the narrow places, even as we rekindle our commitment to the liberation of all people and the planet.

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