Heritage Florida Jewish News - Central Florida's Independent Jewish Voice

The Passover seder-A uniquely Jewish experience


March 23, 2018

There is a webpage, JewBelong and other web pages on the Internet, whose alleged purpose is to bring Judaism to new heights of “contemporary cool,” and thereby attract young Jews back to Judaism. The result of their methodology is to dilute Judaism. The current effort is to incorporate and to politicize the seder with contemporary issues, to change the symbolism on the seder plate to include symbols for gay rights and other causes, to read selections from Christian and Muslim sources, and to promote a progressive political agenda that has nothing to do with the original Passover story.

Fortunately, this strategy is not going to work for a myriad of reasons. First and foremost is the false presumption that traditional Judaism is not “with it” and therefore, is in need of change to make it “relevant” to the issues of the day. How many times have we heard that in the last several decades! The truth is that contemporary issues the progressives wish to deal with can already be found in the Passover story. It is not for the Jewish people to distort this story, but to embrace and continue it.

We should welcome non-Jews to participate in the seder tradition, but we should not dilute it. There are many lessons to be learned from the telling of the Passover story for both us and our non-Jewish friends and neighbors that can guide us through the many issues facing contemporary life.

The traditional Passover seder tells the story of the singular momentous event in the formation of the Jewish nation: Not only does it tell the miraculous story of a people in slavery being rescued by G-d and their hurried exodus from Egypt, but also of their transformation from a tribal people to a nation. It tells a story of a messenger from G-d who leads his people out of Egypt and then assumes the role of a political leader who has to deal with everyday issues of a developing society. The Passover story is a story of an infant nation, having only recently become bound to a rule of law and ethics, so sophisticated for the primitive times in which these events occurred, trying to define itself.

G-d freed the slaves with His strong hand, but he required the Jewish people to wander 40 years in the desert, to transform from a dependent slave mentality to a mentality of independence and freedom. This wandering was not only physical, but also spiritual. Even though G-d had made a covenant with Abraham that the Jewish people were to inherit the Land of Israel, the Jewish people were compelled to do battle to earn their rights to the Promised Land.

The Torah mandates us to tell this story, our story, in every generation as if we ourselves were delivered from slavery unto freedom. Why are we obligated to continually remind ourselves that we were slaves in Egypt? It is to give us a deeper appreciation of freedom and equality. It is to strengthen our conviction to help others who have not reached a high level of equality. It is to give us the strength and wisdom to free people from their own prejudices and hatreds. It is to yearn for and work for peace. It is to continue our journey through history and assure our own survival and our heritage, so we can continue to be a catalyst for progress for all humanity.

In you wish to comment or respond to any of the contents herein you can reach me at melpearlman322@gmail.com. Please do so in a rational, thoughtful, respectful and civil manner. If you wish to respond by ranting and raving, please go into your bathroom, lock the door and shout your brains out.

Mel Pearlman has been practicing law in Central Florida for the past 45 years. He has served as president of the Jewish Federation of Greater Orlando; on the District VII Mental Health Board, as Special Prosecutor for the City of Winter Park, Florida; and on the Board of Directors of the Central Florida Research and Development Authority. He was a charter member of the Board of Directors and served as the first Vice President of the Holocaust Memorial Resource and Education Center of Central Florida, as well as its first pro-bono legal counsel.


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