April 17, 2024
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April 17, 2024
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Passover (Pesach) begins this year on Wednesday night, April 6, and lasts for eight days. This holiday is celebrated by Jews all over the world. The Haggadah is recited and the Seder ritual meal is hosted during the first two nights. Passover is the most celebrated of all Jewish holidays, with more than 70% of Jewish Americans taking part in a seder. It does not matter if they are Orthodox, Conservative, Reform or non-observant. Passover is a time for all Jewish families and friends to get together and celebrate in a festive manner.

The original Passover meal was celebrated in a communal fashion. The Torah tells us that the Passover lamb was to be shared among families. If the family was too small, “then he and his neighbor who lives nearby,” were to get together and share in the meal (Shemot 12:4). There was to be no leftovers. Anything not eaten had to be burned the next day (12:10). An entire lamb was a lot to eat in one meal. No one man could eat the entire lamb himself in one night. Instead, the Torah meant to encourage a communal get together with friends and family sharing in the meal.

We see a similar theme in this week’s parsha of Tzav. The Torah speaks of the various sacrifices that were brought. There were sacrifices for thanksgiving and sacrifices for guilt offerings, for example. When someone would bring a thanksgiving sacrifice to appreciate the good tidings in his life, he was adjured that it “… must be eaten on the day of his offering, he shall not leave any of it for the next day,” (Vayikra 7:15).

The Sages derive from this verse that the time limit of eating all the meat from the sacrifice applied to all offerings, not just the thanksgiving offering. It also applied to the guilt offering, the “asham” offering and many other offerings. They all had to be eaten the same day, with no leftovers allowed.

These offerings consisted of goats, lambs and, sometimes, even large animals such as a bull. Again, no one man could barbecue and eat an entire animal in one day. The obvious implication was that when people brought a sacrifice, they had to invite family and many friends to share in the meal. This was to be a communal event.

Communal life events are encouraged in Jewish life. We pray in synagogues (shuls) which are called “batei knesset,” gathering places. Note that shuls are not called “batei tefillah,” praying places. Shuls today, typically, have a kiddush after Shabbos prayers and often host bar mitzvahs, weddings and bris celebrations. Pirkei Avot encourages us to live in communities that have Jewish studies and cultural events present. Hillel adjures, “Do not separate yourself from the community, “ (chapter 2, verse 5.) The Gemara (Shavuot 39a) tells us that all Jews are guarantors for one another. Rabbi Yaakov Klass remarked, “Thus, we see that no man is an island unto himself. We must love each other just as we love our own limbs and organs, for we are, indeed, connected like the various limbs of one body.”

Maintaining social connections as we grow older is especially important. Researchers have published studies that reiterate how the most important factors that affect people as they age are not necessarily having excess money or living alone in a fancy, isolated house in the middle of nowhere. Instead, having a social community has been associated with better health outcomes, higher levels of activity and more positive moods for older adults. On top of that, having a social network can also provide folks with a sense of purpose and a support network.

When we get together for the Passover Seder, we enthusiastically sing a popular song, “Dayenu.” Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis, a”h, made the observation that the natural way of expressing gratitude is to make a general statement wherein one gives thanks for everything in one statement. However, if we look at the song “Dayenu,” we notice that there is line after line whereby we give specific thanks and appreciation for every single positive incident that occurred to us along our exodus out of Egypt. What are we supposed to learn from this?

The rebbetzin explains that we are encouraged to not gloss over all the positive things that we have going for us in our daily lives. Despite our challenges, we need to appreciate and say, “thank you,” for our health. We need to say, “thank you,” for our spouses. We need to be grateful for our children. We need to be grateful that—despite the stresses—we still have a job. We have a home to return to and a bed to rest in. With this attitude of gratefulness and appreciation, our hearts will be filled with joy and we will experience peace of mind. We especially need to be grateful that we have family and friends that are near and dear to us who are celebrating this most joyous of holidays, Pesach, together. That is, probably, what makes this one of the most celebrated Jewish holidays of the year.

May the coming Pesach season be filled with happiness and fulfillment for all Jews of all religious persuasions. May Hashem bless us to be able to say, “Dayenu,” and to count our blessings—one by one—especially the blessings of having family and a community with which to celebrate.


Rabbi Dr. Avi Kuperberg is a forensic, clinical psychologist and a member of the American Psychology-Law Society. He is the coordinator of Bikur Cholim/Chesed at Congregation Torah Ohr in Boca Raton, Florida. He can be reached at [email protected].

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