Passover: Renewed and new meanings

Rabbi Barry Dov Lerner
Rabbi Barry Dov Lerner (Via Jewish Exponent)

Rabbi Barry Dov Lerner

What do you remember most vividly about your earliest seder experience?

Many of us have memories of our respective Passover experiences with the input of family and friends, and most are pleasant if not inspiring. Now, this year, we have the most recent memories, supplemented perhaps with pictures, melodies and memories of sedarim from the past.

But are we ready to say “Dayenu” — enough? Passover may now be ending this year. However, I’m already planning for next year. First, why?

The famed Reform preacher Rabbi Stephen S. Wise often taught that for each Shabbat he composed three sermons: one was the first one he wrote; second was the d’var Torah that he actually preached; and last was on the way home, the one he should have shared.

Passover has similar parallels.

There is the seder we plan; the seder we celebrated; and then the seder we should have planned. But there is next year for what we will perform.

For next year, there are an increasing number of seder plate symbols, so much so that the table itself must become the seder “plate” [k’arah] to contain them all.

Let’s plan to continue sharing all the new and innovative seder plate symbols that have evolved to address the issue of inclusivity and bringing in those who still feel marginalized.

Some “new” additions have become “semi-traditional” and are well-known, such as the orange. I found in my files one I had forgotten — an alternative symbol for LGBTQ inclusivity.

Here is the backstory: Invited to a seder, a guest asked the host if she could add cinnamon sticks. When asked why, she explained: “Judaism has made huge strides towards inclusiveness for the LGBT community. I chose to add cinnamon sticks to my seder plate because it can be bitter by itself or be used to sweeten a greater whole; we do use it in charoset. Many traditions use it to symbolize spirituality, healing and love — and when you combine them you get acceptance. I finally feel the LGBT community is fully accepted by Judaism and use the cinnamon stick to symbolize it.”

The host, a “Conservadox rabbi” said, “You can never take anything away from the seder, but you can always add. I like the symbolism. When you come over, make sure you bring a sealed glass bottle of cinnamon sticks so we can add one to the seder plate.” I was so overjoyed that my eyes began to tear. I am truly blessed to be a part of such an amazing community.

We should encourage the use of additional symbols to promote asking questions. Encourage everyone to seize this opportunity to bring new meaning through a new symbol for freedom, justice and blessing.

Rabbi Barry Dov Lerner is the president of Traditional Kosher Supervision, Inc.

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