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April 02, 1993 - Image 7

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1993-04-02

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Editor's Notebook

The Passover Challenge




One of the curi-
ous aspects of
Passover is that
its observance,
or lack of it, re-
veals so much
tti. about who we
are as American
I once had a professor at
Yeshiva University who il-
lustrated some of the differ-
ences in denominational
approaches to religious ob-
servance by bringing in the
Passover editions of two Jew-
ish children's magazines, one
Orthodox and one Reform.
The Reform magazine
talked of the excitement of
Passover, of eating exotic
foods at the seder, appreciat-
ing the drama of the biblical
passages leading up to the
tenth plague and the exodus
from Egypt, and the holiday's
overall message of freedom.
The theme, reinforced
throughout the magazine,
was that Passover is a won-
drous holiday of miracles and
celebration, of food and ritu-
The Orthodox magazine's
Passover issue, by contrast,
consisted of a lengthy list of
ingredients that were
forbidden to be eaten because
they were chametz, or leav-
No mention of Moses or
miracles or meanings. The
; bottom line was that there
j are an awful lot of forbidden
foods that can't be eaten on
Pesach so let's get to it.
Admittedly, this example
goes back a number of years
and may be an extreme case.
But there's a lesson to be
learned here, and that it is
we can obsess on the details
and minutiae of Jewish law
to the point that we fail to see
the grand picture.
And on the other hand,
some of us are so enthralled
with the joys of Judaism that
we don't deal with the com-
mandments unless they are
pleasurable to perform. So
drinking four cups of wine at
the seder is fine, but con-
cerning ourselves with which
wines are kosher is a waste
of time.
Obviously, there's a happy
) medium here for all of us to
,, work toward, an appreciation
of both the mitzvot and the
One message of Passover



We Must Not Forget:
Silence Is Dangerous

that is all too often neglected
in the mad-dash effort to
clean our homes and rid them
of certain foods is that
chametz is more than food in-
gredients. Our rabbis taught
that cleaning out the chametz
has a spiritual dimension as
well, that each of us has the
opportunity before this ma-
jor festival to rid ourselves of
that leavening component
within us that causes our
egos to rise like flour.
The source of matzah or
bread is the same: flour,
wheat and grains. The dif-
ference is that if these ingre-
dients are mixed with water
and allowed to remain, the
result is bread. If, however,
we speed up the baking
process and recite, L'shaym

matzos mitzvah, this act is
being performed for the mitz-
vah of baking matzahs; then
the product is kosher to be
eaten on Passover.
Similarly, each of us has
the ability to do good or evil,
to act kindly or with anger.
Our ingredients are the
same. It's what we do with
them that counts.
If we allow our notions and
feelings to control us, or to re-
main stagnant, the result is
the stuff of everyday life, the
bread of thoughtlessness. If,
however, we consciously de-
vote ourselves to doing a
mitzvah, to sanctifying our
everyday acts, we transform
that ordinary bread into a

matzah of morality.
This coming week, we have
the opportunity to strength-
en our Jewish lives. We, who
as a community are obsessed
with assimilation and a fu-
ture of diminishing Jewish
involvement, have the chance
to connect with our families
during this most celebrated
of annual Jewish rituals —
by preparing the content of
the seder as carefully as we
prepare the meal.
The seder can be an ad-
venture or a bore, a tired rite
or a stimulating encounter.
It's up to us to make it more
than a brief prelude to the
ever-present Fifth Question:
when do we eat?
The genius of the seder,
and the reason why it has

survived these thousands of
years, is that in reenacting
the first Passover, we inter-
nalize and personalize our
forefathers' experiences by
actually tasting the matzah,
the bread of affliction, and
the maror, the bitterness of
We are instructed by our
rabbis to "Go and tell the sto-
ry, to your children and
grandchildren." In so doing,
we create a new history. And
if we do our task with atten-
tion and commitment, that
history will live anew in fu-
ture generations.
The story is there for all of
us. The challenge is in our
telling. El

Only once in
my lifetime
have I seen
such a large
group of Jew-
ish people re-
main silent.
Picture the
scene. Nearly 1,000 women
were seated in a large con-
vention room last week at
the Chicago Hilton Towers,
where delegates from each
state were voting on reso-
lutions of the National
Council of Jewish Women.
On the floor: Should
NCJW keep its resolution
to preserve the separation
of church and state by
maintaining its position
against teaching religion
in public school?
A delegate from Alaba-
ma stood up and suggest-
ed the oldest Jewish
women's organization get
rid of this resolution. If a
debate arises, she said, and
NCJW has a resolution
against religion in schools,
it can be damaging to the
Jewish children who at-
tend these schools.
The idea of being visible,
and of insisting on keeping
religion out of the schools,
points a finger at Jews re-
siding in these Christian
communities, she said.
No one clapped. No one
responded. Few even ac-
knowledged this woman's
point. Perhaps, I thought,
the women were tired from
the day's long program.
Surely, we will fight for
the separation of church
and state — the one issue
in this country that is
paramount to the survival
of the Jewish people and
other religious minorities.
I wanted to go to the
podium to share my views
with this woman. Instead,
I just looked around at
blank faces. At this point,
I wondered if I had invent-
ed the woman from Alaba-
Yet the woman seated
next to me confirmed the
suggestion had been to do
away with the resolution
about religion in the
A few more people
walked to the microphone,
each suggesting NCJW
keep the resolution. Yet no

one acknowledged the Al-
abama point. Shortly af-
terward, delegates voted to
support the resolution.
The rest of the week, I
wondered about the con-
tinuing silence. These are
the most interesting peo-
ple I know, and no one —
except my roommate, an-
other Detroiter — brought
up the issue.
She said most of us in
cities with large Jewish
populations are raised to
think of being Jewish in a
certain way. In Detroit, we
can be vocal, she explained.
We can work in coalitions
with other groups. We can
ask for things. We are part
of the larger community.

Remember construction of
1-696? Some lobbying
helped the observant com-
munities in Oak Park and
Southfield get parks over
the highway for easy ac-
cess to the synagogues on
Never before had I
looked at living in Detroit
as a luxury for a Jew. But
we are safe here. And we
can not take this for grant-
ed. I wonder if Alabama
would put up parks and
sidewalks at the advice of
the Jewish community?
Maybe not.
This woman scared me.
And she scared my friend.
We both believe silence is
dangerous. Silence didn't
save the lives of the Jews
killed in Nazi Europe dur-
ing the Holocaust.
Now I pose a challenge
to all organizations of the
Jewish community. If
those Jews living in Al-
abama or rural areas are
afraid to speak out for fear
of persecution, can we find
other ways to speak for
them? CI

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