Shabbat Shalom with a Heart Healthy Dose of Torah – Acharei Mot I

The Seders are done. The holiday ends tonight (unless you add a second first day, at which point it ends tomorrow night – consider this a corollary to the “2 Jews 12 opinions” thing).

I am glad that the Seders went well. I loved being with family, friends, congregation and community. I am glad that they are done. I think that Passover is more stressful for a Rabbi than even the High Holy Days. On Yom Kippur, folks know that they are not going to eat for a while (sundown); it’s okay to fill the time with conversation, music, and song. At the Passover Seder, though, the only thing standing in the way between them and the dinner that awaits is me and the Cantor (and at least her singing is fun).

All that said, after the pomp and circumstance of the Seder(s) is done, we still have the remaining part of the week during which our celebration takes on a non-choreographed life of its own. We often think of holidays as beginning and ending with the service commemorating the event. There is a reason that Passover lasts for 7 (or 8) days, and not just until the Seder is over.

Passover is a holiday that requires us to remember that we are still slaves in Egypt, not just during the dinner, but the whole week. I fact, it is a week-long reminder that this servitude exist 365 days a year. We don’t pretend oppression exists for only the few hours at the Seder table. We open our eyes to see, our ears to hear, and our hearts to respond: we walk by people in need all day and too often do not even see them (never mind their affliction). As long as one is oppressed, none are free. If oppression impacts a single person, it is looking for a second victim. In fact, it already has a second victim. The oppressor is a victim of his own insecurities that cause him to need to oppress someone else to feel more whole. The only way for any of us to be free is to eradicate oppression from anyone’s experience.

At the end of the Seder(s) we say, “Next Year In Jerusalem!” We want there to be peace in the coming year. After we leave the Seder table, we have to begin the work of changing the world. We have to recognize help people heal from their own insecurities. We have to help lift people out of poverty and degradation. We have to do the work that will help bring all who suffer (including ourselves) into a better tomorrow. I understand this charge sounds grandiose, but never underestimate your power to change someone’s day or life with the simplest of gestures. Stories proliferate teaching how a single act of kindness restored hope in people’s points of view and then in their lives.

In order to maintain a somewhat unified Torah cycle, those who acknowledge a 7 day Passover will split the next Torah portion into two pieces. Acharae Mot is thus read over the course of both this week and next. Much of the portion deals with preparations for Yom Kippur. The text lays out the Yom Kippur rules for the High Priest (Kohen) and the people. Thinking about Yom Kippur in the midst of Passover provides a nice bridge across the year.

Our children are finishing the school year, so, I am in school thought mode. If Yom Kippur is the time when we take stock of the order or disorder in the world, Passover is the “study session” preparing us for that ultimate annual final exam.  If Yom Kippur opens our investigative process that forces us to look deep inside ourselves and clean out the “garbage” that holds us back, Passover is that moment when the research ends and the execution of the document begins. It makes no sense to pray for atonement on one day and then do nothing to change one’s self and the world on the days that follow.

Pick a cause, volunteer and serve there on a regular basis. You will find the effort more and more fulfilling, as you see lives change because of your efforts. It is contagious. Let’s get to work. Shabbat Shalom.