We truly received an extravagant welcome when members of the Fabrangen invited Lincoln Temple to a small seder at on of their member’s homes. This occasion marked the 45th and 25th anniversary of a “freedom” seder between the two groups. Twenty-five years ago members from both congregations crafted a seder around the telling of the exodus story (obviously) and of TJ Houston, a man who had escaped antebellum slavery, fought in the civil war and was also a relative of one of the ministers at Lincoln Temple.
There was a lot of singing, reflecting, sharing and a moment to remember those who have passed and didn’t make it out of bondage. There was an incredible amount of hope, cheer, powerful symbolism and wine drinking. If you like sweet wine then you will love kosher wine. Like any great night I was enjoying the moment and didn’t write a single thing down. However, this is what really stuck with me:
1) Marking the exodus of Jews from Egypt was a celebration and the mood was similar to Christmas eve or New Year’s eve. Holy week for Christians is probably the most solemn week in the liturgical calendar and there isn’t much to smile about until Easter Sunday. So I’m not sure how Christian communities can mash a passover celebration and Maundy Thursday into one service. I think it would be a disservice to both holy occasions.
2) There’s a good deal of preparation that has to happen and a seder can last 4 hours or more. I would gladly sign a petition to make at least the 2nd day of Passover a national holiday. People need to rest after putting together a celebration like that.
3) Enslavement is real: Our sacred texts have shown us that people were oppressed to the point they called out to God. Real people, throughout history have been stripped of their God given dignity. Our own American history has been marked by chattel slavery of Africans who were (partially) liberated by President Lincoln in the midst of a civil war. People have and are being oppressed not for a few days but for years, decades and generations at a time.
4) Emancipation is real: Our own spiritual history is marked with groups of people, the most famous being the Jews being liberated. We can hope and act toward making sure other persons experience the same exodus and enjoy some version of a seder (i.e. Juneteenth). Whether it is the kidnapped Nigerian girls, those imprisoned in human trafficking or persons who are under constant threat of violence for being a minority (gays in Uganda, religious minorities in the middle east) people are oppressed and need to be set free. Also, when it does happen we should celebrate that freedom as often as possible. By doing so we cast light on the injustice of slavery and praise God for the ability to defeat it.
Hopefully we don’t have to wait another 25 years before we have a joint seder. God’s love was evident and I felt blessed to be able to participate.
Written by MCB, an ordinary lay person at Lincoln Temple.