Jewish Holidays

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Wednesday April 8th to Thursday April 16th

A Passover Message from Rabbi Steve

Had Gadya: a parable for our times

Most Passover seders end with a version of the song Had Gadya. It is a long song, but one with which we can also have some fun. As a child, I remember my mother and her sisters always competing to see who could sing each verse the fastest. By the time they got to the loooooooong final verse, the three of them were usually laughing so hard that they couldn’t finish. Today, I still try to compete with their memories to see how fast I can sing it without tripping over the words or laughing.

However, the meaning or Had Gadya isn’t so funny, as it a parable of how nation after nation has tried to destroy the Jewish people. However, since in the end, we always prevailed, we can sing about it. Even after the tragedy of the Holocaust (which occurred long after the song was written) we were eventually able to have fun with the song, because laughing as a response to danger has long been a Jewish response. Just look at the holiday of Purim, just one month ago!

These days we are in the midst of a difficult and dangerous time. Not only is there suffering and sickness around us, but we are unable to be together with those we love in order to give support. Most of us will celebrate Passover with ourselves, just a few people, or with others online perhaps.

Yet, even even in the face of that reality, we should do our best to find the ability to enjoy the beauty in the world and laugh a little. As we read in the biblical book of Ecclesiastes/Kohelet (chapter 3): “To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven; [including] a time to weep and a time to laugh…”

Often the time for weeping and laughing are linked to one another, or even concurrent. That is certainly true these days. So, even as we weep, we must try our best to laugh as well. I realize that this may not be possible for those who are suffering from the virus, or who have loved ones who are sick, or who have died. And that’s an important reality to remember.

Immediately following the verse quoted above, Kohelet states that there is also “a time to mourn, and a time to dance.” We may not be able to laugh or dance at this moment, but eventually, with the help of God, family, and community, I have faith that we will again.

As we try our best to celebrate Passover in the midst of these troubled times, I hope the Had Gadya video below brings a smile to your faces. However, we also need to remember, think of, and pray for those in need of healing. To some degree, that really includes all of us right now. That’s why I’m adding Debbie Friedman’s Mi Shebeirach healing prayer to my seder this year.

So enjoy the video if you can right now. If you’re not able to, don’t worry, just save it for a time when you can in the future, even if Passover has ended! The video was conceived and edited by Daniel Olson, who works at the Hillel International Office of Innovation and features his mother Amy Olson, Executive Director of University of Rhode Island Hillel, as well as other family members. You can click here if you’d like to learn more about the song and get a more detailed explanation of its meaning,

May we each find a way to celebrate Passover in as meaningful and celebratory a manner as is possible this year. And don’t be hard on yourself if you find this difficult to do. After all, we’re only human!

It is traditional to end the seder with the worlds l’shanah ha’baah bi’yerushalayim “Next year in Jerusalem.” For this year I’d like to change that to “Next Year together in celebration.” Amen.

Hag Sameach – Happy Passover,

Rabbi Steve

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