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Truths You Can Use

On the evening of March 25, people around the world will begin the Passover holiday.

They will sit down for a Passover meal known as a seder, with small book known as a hagaddah, describing the rituals and blessing of the meal, and telling the great story of the journey from slavery in Egypt to freedom in the Promised Land.

free passover hagaddah

Here are ten things to know about Passover. If you’d like to know more or have questions comments, feel free to leave them below. (and don’t miss the free gift at the end!)

1. Passover celebrates not only the freedom of the Jewish people from Egypt long ago. It honors the freedom we seek today. Freedom from addictions, from materialism, from anything that distracts from the best that is within us. 

2. The Passover seder (ritual meal) is the oldest religious ritual in continuous use in the Western world. 

3. The Passover story has inspired leaders from different groups in different eras: From African Americans during slavery to pioneers of the modern state of Israel to those who struggle to expand our freedoms around the world today. 

4. Both Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin wanted the seal of the United States to depict the Exodus story. Jefferson wanted a depiction of the Israelites crossing over the Red Sea. Franklin wanted a display of the cloud of God leading the Israelites through the wilderness. free passover hagaddah

5. Passover is also known as “The Holiday of Matzah,” emphasizing the importance of unleaved bread in observing the holiday. Matzah is eaten during the eight days of Passover because in their haste to escape from Egypt, the Israelites did not have time to let the yeast rise in their bread. Therefore, they ate unleaved bread, known as matzah.

6. The number four is important for Passover because God’s promise of redemption from Egypt is mentioned four times in the beginning of Exodus story, (Exodus 6:6-7). During the seder, we have the four cups of wine, four questions, four types of children, and four hundred years of slavery.

7. Passover revolves around children: Much of the ritual of the Passover seder is meant to keep children engaged. From the telling of the story to the hiding of the afikomen (dessert matzah) to the constant asking of questions is the Jewish sages attempt to make Passover an educational experience, as well as a religious one.

8. More American Jews celebrate Passover than any other Jewish holiday throughout the year. free passover hagaddah

9. In Israel people still conclude the Seder with the words “Next Year in Jerusalem.” Even though they may be sitting and eating in city of Jerusalem, Jerusalem represents more than just a physical place. It sybolizes an era of peace, of harmony, of universal freedom.

10. In 1932 Maxwell House Coffee printed a Hagaddah (the book containing the passover rituals, blessings and story) as part of advertising campaign. It spread quickly and became the most widely-used Hagaddah in America. It was recently updated.

11. (Bonus): There are thousands of Hagaddahs in print today. A free one is available below!

To see Rabbi Moffic’s new book, click here.

The most repeated commandment in the entire Old Testament is “You shall not oppress the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.” It is recited in daily Jewish prayer, and describes lesson of the Israelite experience of slavery in Egypt.

passover

Does God Ask the Impossible?

If we think deeply about it, however, we also see that it is quite audacious. Its spirit has rarely played out in human history, because it rubs up against our basic human desire for vengeance.  We tend to hate those who have oppressed us

Leaders like Gandhi or Mandela are the exception rather than the rule. Both of them, and many others, drew their inspiration from ancient Israel.

From the experience of slavery, the Israelites drew not a cause for hatred, but a lesson in the basic need for dignity and freedom. They chose to empathize rather than demonize.

They chose not to define themselves as victims. They become teachers of hope.

Why Empathy Matters

Empathy is not just a nice quality to have. It is not just for people of faith. It matters to each of us. It is critical to our happiness as human beings.

George Washington Carver described why empathy matters in his beautiful words,  “How far you go in life depends on your being tender with the young, compassionate with the aged, sympathetic with the striving, and tolerant of the weak and the strong. Because someday in life you will have been all of these.”

Empathy is the way we open our hearts.

To receive Rabbi Moffic’s weekly digest of Jewish wisdom, click here.

In less than a month, Jews around the world will set down for a special meal known as a Passover Seder. Begun more than 3000 years ago, as the Jewish people prepared to leave Egypt, the Seder is one of history’s most ancient continuous religious rituals.

Its story and symbolism have influenced Christianity as well. Indeed, many Christians will also sit down for a seder, either in church or in their homes, seeking to experience what Jesus and the apostles did.

christian seder
What We Will Learn

To assist both searching Jews and interested Christians, I’m going to devote several artices to uncovering the deep symbolism, richness and contemporary message of the Passover Seder.

Doing so will not only teach about an ancient Jewish ritual, but it also provides a way to explore the meaning and origins of Christian doctrine, and the way Judaism shaped Christianity in its early days.

What is Passover?

Passover celebrates the God’s gift of freedom. It begins with a gathering, usually at someone’s home, in which the story of the Israelite exodus from Egypt is retold.

The order and protocol of the this gathering is prescribed in detail. It begins with a washing of the hands, continues with cups of wines and a festive meal, and concludes with song.

Each of the 15 steps of this ceremony will be discussed during the course of our articles. Each one is ripe with symbolism and contemporary relevance for Christians and Jews.

How Does Passover Compare With Easter?

The similarities abound.

1. Both take place in the Spring: Easter has no fixed date, but as Dr. Ismar Schorsch put it, “the first council of Nicaea in 325 determined that Easter should always fall on the first Sunday after the first full moon following the vernal equinox. In consequence, Easter remained proximate to the full moon, which coincided with the start of Passover on the fifteenth of Nisan.” In other words, both holidays take place around the first full moon of Spring.

2. Both emphasize hope: Spring is a time of renewal and rebirth. In Judaism, Pasover celebrates the renewal of the Jewish people after 400 years of slavery. In Christianity, Easter celebrates the resurrection–the renewal of life–of Jesus.

3. Both holidays shape the foundations of their religions: In Judaism, recalling the Exodus of Egypt is part daily prayer, shaping our understanding of God’s role in history. For many Catholics and Protestants, the weekly sacrament of communion reenacts the last supper and transforms God’s saving grace into a living truth.

For all their similarities, Passover and Easter do diverge in many places. These differences, and their further similarities, will be explored over the next month. My hope and prayer is that we will be enriched through the wisdom and traditions of each other.

To receive Rabbi Moffic’s weekly digest of Jewish wisdom, click here.

pope rabbi

The Catholic Church is at a pivotal crossroads. Many are still processing the events of the past three weeks. For the first time in 600 years, a Pope resigned.

Then just a few days before the Conclave to elect the next Pope, a Cardinal withdrew because of sexual abuse charges.

These events come on the heels of the most massive and damaging leak of insider information to the media in the history of the Church. Current reports suggest some high-ranking officials are now being wiretapped by Vatican security.

The decision made by the Cardinals, and the leadership qualities of the next Pope, will shape the world of the twenty-first century. Here is my humble advice on what qualities and values will matter most:

1. Transparency: Louis Brandeis once said that “Sunshine is the best disinfectant.” Leading an institution rocked by several scandals in an age where information flows widely and rapidly, the next Pope needs to bring in some sunshine.  

Greater transparency does not mean a change in doctrine. It does not demand any watering down of Church doctrine. It is not a call for greater liberalism.

It is simply a call for honesty. It is a call to match words with deed and hold leadership accountable to the people that make up the Church.

2. Courage: Leadership is not easy. It is even harder when you are responsibility for a 2000 year old institutions with over a billion adherents. The decisions the Pope makes will determine what kind of institution the Church will be.

While I have my own preferences, the decision is not mine. All I hope for is that whoever it is leads with courage of his convictions. This is not a time for a caretaker or a puppet for some other power. It is a time for visionary leadership.

3. Humility: The Pope traditionally wears a ring on his third finger known as the “Fisherman’s Ring.” It honors Saint Peter, a fisherman, and the early apostles, who were known as “fishers of men.”

The ring also can also symbolize the simplicity and humility of the fisherman. He must be patient, watchful and able to navigate through waves and rough currents.

He also depends on something much vaster than himself. The sea may seem empty and overwhelming at times, but it is the source of life and sustenance. So it is with the Pope (and any faith leader).

Ultimately, we do not depend on ourselves. We align ourselves with a power greater than ourselves.

It is my hope and prayer that this Power will be with the next Pope, and all those whom he leads and inspires.

To receive Rabbi Moffic’s weekly digest of Jewish wisdom, click here.