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Passover 2023

04/05/2023 11:33:12 AM


Rabbi Hearshen

I cannot begin to quantify the number of times, at a funeral or a shiva, I‘ve quoted the words from Pirkei Avot: איזהו אשיר? השמח בחלקו/Who is wealthy? The person who is happy with their portion. These words are part of a long list of counter intuitive viewpoints on aspects of humanity. What is strength and what is wisdom are some of the other questions answered in ways that might be surprising at first glance. In the case of wealth, the Mishnah is insinuating true wealth comes from a place of acceptance and contentment. When we are able to feel we "have enough" we are truly wealthy because we have reached a point where we don’t feel a need for more than we have.

In the world today, people live in a constant state of pursuit. Humanity is never satisfied with what it has and is always looking for more, for bigger and for better (at least in the eyes of the seeker). When we purchase a computer, we know within a matter of days or months the computer will be outdated and beginning to work its way to being obsolete. When we have the opportunity to travel, we often get caught up in planning the next trip rather than enjoying the moment we’re in on our current trip. I recall from this January, as my family was sitting in the boarding zone for our Disney Cruise, we were already receiving offers and requests to reserve our next trip. We spent considerable time thinking this over as we were on our first family vacation in years and our first cruise ever. As people join the workforce and begin to negotiate their contracts, it’s always with the idea in mind that they’ll make more and more each year. They’ll ultimately have in mind that the next contract will have even more in it for them. The question to all of these is simple: when and how will it ever be enough? When will each of us find the elusive (thank you Mick Jagger) "satisfaction"? Are we all destined to be Lin Manuel Miranda's Angelica and "never be satisfied"?

It can be argued each of us is enslaved by the pursuit of more. Each of us becomes enslaved by the inability to be satisfied and happy. If we become enslaved to the most basic of instincts and urges, we can easily feel trapped and lost when we’re truly free and have so much. Each year during Seder, we arrive at the song/poem/liturgical piece called דינו/Dayenu/it would be enough. Had God only taken us from Egypt… only given us the Torah… only given us Shabbat… only brought us to the land of Israel… Dayenu. This list asserts we would have been satisfied with any of these and not need all the others. This list asserts we have so many blessings that have been showered upon us and we need to recognize each one of them. What’s happened to our “dayenu”? Why is it in our day and age we’re unable to look in the mirror and smile because we see just how much we’ve been blessed with in this world?

I love to reflect on the words of a modern-day Prophet and Tzadik, Elie Wiesel, when I look for the depth of our tradition. “The name of this beautiful poem is Dayenu, which means ‘it would have sufficed’ or ‘we would have been satisfied.’ Perhaps ‘grateful’ would be a better translation. Dayenu is the song of our gratitude. A Jew defines himself by his capacity for gratitude. A Jewish philosopher once asked, ‘What is the opposite of nihilism?’ And he said ‘Dayenu,’ the ability to be thankful for what we’ve received, for what we are. The first prayer a Jew is expected to recite upon waking expresses our gratitude for being alive. This holds for all generations, and surely for ours. For each of us, every day should be an act of grace, every hour a miraculous offering.” (A Passover Haggadah – As commented upon by Elie Wiesel)

As we celebrate Passover, we celebrate freedom. When we celebrate freedom, it must be while acknowledging our freedom came at, and continues to come with, a price. Freedom isn’t free and it isn’t natural. It takes work and vigilance. Freedom is something we must be thankful for and is something that’s enough. When we struggle to be satisfied, maybe we’ll do well to alter our outlook from contentment to being thankful. It’s tough to be content and to feel we can say we have enough. It’s difficult to accept that what we have is what we’re limited to. When we shift to a point of saying “thank you” for all of these incredible gifts we’ve been given, we can remove the focus from being grateful or ungrateful. We can change it to a focus on being thankful for all we have regardless of our undying tendency to continue to want and long for more.

Tonight begins the incredible celebration of Passover. Please join me and my family in entering this celebration with open hearts and open arms. May the matzah we eat tonight remind us of the freedom we enjoy and the cost at which we have it. May we never forget the bitterness on our lips as we eat the maror and recognize too many people in our world today are stuck with that bitterness. And as we savor the sweetness of the four cups of wine and the charoset, may we see that’s the type of society and world we’re working together to build - a world where we conquer bitter maror with the sweetness of sanctity (wine) and sweetness of the charoset.

On behalf of Carrie, Ayelet and Galit, and along with the entire staff of OVS and our Board of Directors, I wish you a happy and healthy and joyful Passover.

Sun, June 4 2023 15 Sivan 5783