April 20, 2016

Tambourines of Hope: 10 Tips so Passover doesn’t Pass Us Over.

Judah Gross/Flickr

Passover is celebrated by more Jews, and their friends, than any other Jewish holiday.

It’s time to break (out) the matzah, literally.

10 tips to keep Passover fresh and even a little mystical. Try these at home.

1. Clean Out—Shed clothes, household items, old toys and bikes. Let go of the stories, rummage, unneeded excess and schmutz in our homes and hearts. Food is not the only thing with a shelf life. Yes, I’m nodding to our stashes of rubber bands and jammed garages.

2. Sell Off—Ancient legal fiction offers a way to sell off chametz (consumables made of wheat, barley, rye, oats or spelt) to another person so that our domain is free of leaven. Leavened goods get puffy, like our egos, appetites and human insatiableness. Sell off, or sequester, leaven during the holiday. Dayanu, it is/we are enough.

3. Bring Light—The night before seder, with little ones or friends, search with candle and feather for hidden crumbs of bread. The candle brings illumination to the dark corners of our homes and lives. The feather is a broom to lightly and gently sweep up. Look for heavy, compacted, stale places and bring light.

4. Burn Up—By noon, the morning before the first seder meal, burn these last few crumbs of chametz and bless their removal and disposal. Bless the excess, unneeded, unwanted out of our lives. Find, gather and bless and let go. Jewish tradition loves this formula. Did I mention bless? Think: bow, thank, acknowledge and then, release.

5. Bring In—Bring in signs of spring and decorate the table. Gather buds and sprigs of growing things. Dress the table with jewelry and special treasures in the celebration of being royal and free. Put pillows on the chairs and lean luxuriously left while drinking. Regal and royal we are not only free from, but we are free to. What comes next is a sacred, privileged opportunity, not a given.

6. Open Up—Passover is a time to invite guests or be invited as a guest. Open homes and pockets to those in need. Who is still enslaved, whether to substance, loneliness, physical ailment or fear? Plagues come in many forms. We give tzedakah, just contributions, to forge paths through the desert and the sea. Make it in memory of a liberator in your life.

7. Eat Slowly—The mitzvah, ritual opportunity, to eat the first bite of matzah is crucial. Take time for quiet, better yet silence, before, during and after this bite. Taste the matzah as both the bread of affliction and the bread of freedom, all in the same bite, a visceral reenactment of history and this moment, iterated and illustrated through us.

8. Talk Holy-–The seder meal provokes and inspires questions. Tell the story of a people’s slavery and journey to freedom. Have these conversations. Take time to ask questions and dig deeply into your history, personally, as a family and as a people. Passover, peh sach, means a flowing mouth, so let our mouths flow with holy talk. Listen for voices of the wise, wicked, simple and those unable to ask.

9. Go Outside—Elijah, the herald of redemption, visits our seder table, drinks from his cup and agitates us to hope and act. Don’t just open the door, go out and greet Elijah, welcome him and encourage him to hurry up! See what you can do to bring justice and redemption. Look out for Miriam, Moses’s sister and our well inspirer. Hear her tambourines of hope.

10. Sing Love SongsPesach is a time of spring and new beginnings. Open up the Song of Songs, Shir haShirim, and read one of the Hebrew Bible’s most beautiful, juicy love poems. Sing, dance or reenact this hot and steamy poetry with someone you love, perhaps in the fullness of the watery moon.

11. Count the DaysSefirat haOmer, the count of the Omer, is a 49 day spiritual pilgrimage. We count up to connect Passover, at the shore of the Reed Sea, to Shavuot, our next festival, at Mount Sinai where we receive Torah (and cheesecake). Start counting the omer, sheaves of spring harvested barley, from the second night of Passover.

What Torah would you like to receive in seven weeks?



The 4 Inner Children: Lessons From the Seder.


Author: Rabbi Alyson Solomon

Editor: Ashleigh Hitchcock

Photo: Judah Gross/Flickr

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Rabbi Alyson Solomon