Saturday, March 2, 2013

A table set for freedom - Article in Temple Beth-El Las Cruces Adelante Newsletter - March, 2013

A table is set.
  Beneath an ornate and festive cloth, a thin, unusual slice of bread awaits to be tasted once again.
  Two candles stand tall, waiting to be kindled, serving as beacons along a path towards liberation.
  A decorative plate creates holy space for signs of our hopeful celebration. It is a gathering-place for a small community of symbols that make an ancient story come alive once again.
   One element in that holiday still-life is a remnant of sacrifices that once were a regular part of our heritage, with, in this case, a saving purpose.
   Two items remind us of the season of the year that has just begun, one a miniature tree of life that will be covered with tears, the other declaring that life’s renewal is an ever-present possibility.
   The ingredients of a soon-to-be-fashioned annual appetizer signify how bitterness and sweetness are both a part of life and growth, and how our hard work in our daily routines need not ever enslave us.
   Glasses or cups set in their proper places will receive a touch of joy several times during the evening to come. They will teach us, at one important moment when we slowly diminish their contents, that we are commanded to consider the demise of both friend and foe as tragedy and a cause for concern and mourning.
    One cup stands alone, different from all the others, keeping its contents throughout the evening, yet thought to be shared with an invisible wayfarer who embodies our highest hopes for a peaceful future.
   The book at each setting is the road map for a journey that begins with oppression and culminates in hard-earned freedom.  Its words still are familiar after so many generations.
   There are questions intended to assure that the lessons of the night are fully understood by all who are present. There are blessings for the many items on the table, giving each one its role in a story of redemption.
   There are ancient words explained in light of centuries of pain and pride, of life and learning.
   There are scores of melodies accompanying texts that echo from one household to the next, still serving as harmony even if the tunes are completely different.
   There is a tale within this “book of telling” of a father, a child, a young goat, and a cycle of tragedy and violence that, in real life, we must try to bring to an end, so that goodness and godliness will triumph over hatred and death.
    Mostly, there are faces of participants around the table from all generations, carrying with them the histories of their origins, bringing their contribution to a circle of fellowship which we always strive to extend to all humankind.
    May this Passover be our time to pray for goodness, healing and liberty in our own lives and to seek cooperation, understanding and peace in our nation and throughout the world.

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