Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Sedarim and Their Meaning

I, as everyone else in our observant practicing community, grew up with our annual Pesah Sedarim. There was always something quite magical and wonderful about the pageantry and the preparations that went into these special meals. In fact, we know that this resonates with the larger Jewish community, including both those who are observant to any degree and those who are not. Population and demographic studies continually and consistently show that more than any other single practice; Jews will have some meal that bears some resemblance to a Seder to mark the holiday and observance of Pesah. This of course is so fitting – that we as a people observe collectively and differently the marker of the one event that made us a people and a nation, namely when G-d took the B’nai Yisrael out of the Land of Mitzrayim. How many of us have wonderful memories of our own recitation of the Four Questions, the taste of our favorite Charoset recipe, the singing of songs around the table, all of the food, family and so much else? The Seder itself, meaning order, was a script we followed as we recounted so much about who we are as a people, believers in G-d and a community. Growing up in the observant Jewish home into which I was born, preparations for this annual feast and celebration would take months. The very word Seder evokes memories of this entire process which may appear to the outsider as somewhat chaotic but definitely had its own order as we prepared for the order and script of the festival and its various components.

Now, as an adult, I have come to appreciate the observance of other Sedarim during the course of the year. Very dear friends of ours, Rabbi Joshua (z’l) and Esther Toledano and their family have introduced our family of Ashkenazic Jews to their Moroccan Sephardic customary Rosh HaShanah Seder. We now enjoy this celebration annually with our joint families. The idea of stopping to appreciate so many of G-d’s created things and to ponder their inner meanings seems like such a wonderful way to complement the Tefillot and other practices associated with this serious and full time of the year. As we begin our new year of human history and personal as well as communal growth and actions, what a meaningful way to remind ourselves of the ultimate system of interdependence of which we are all a part that brings land, the waters, all created things and beings, G-d and us together in an inextricably connected way. The notion that each tangible and physical thing we consume represents a higher ideal, theme, or aspiration is also meaningful in a most profound way, especially at this season of reflection and taking account of self.

Also in my adult years, we have added the Tu Bishvat Seder to our repertoire. As we sit in the midst of the winter months with snow on the ground as often as not, we sit and celebrate our trees and the land and water that facilitates their growth as they are so critically necessary to our well being. The fact that Judaism recognizes this is quite astounding and powerful. We celebrate what nourishes us and of course, The Creator of all parts of our system of interdependence of which we are part. This seder, with its colorful foods and cheerful tone, clearly reminds us of the cycle of life as we celebrate the budding of all things while bundling up (at least where we live) to protect ourselves from the cold.

The word appreciation just keeps coming back into my mind. We appreciate our people hood and our going out of Mitzrayim with the hand and direction of G-d. We celebrate this appreciation and remembrance through the Pesah Seder. We appreciate that all things are part of the world that we acknowledge and take account of on Rosh HaShanah. Once again, there is a scripted Seder to help us through this appreciation in an orderly manner. Of course, Tu Bishvat is also a wonderful time to celebrate and appreciate all that G-d has created for our use and for us to tend and nurture as well as be nurtured by it, as exemplified by our beautiful and bountiful trees. The notion that we use Sedarim, with their own scripts and orders, to celebrate and acknowledge, yes appreciate, the order of all that G-d created and put here just seems to make sense…. In fact, it is quite orderly, don’t you think?!

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