This month we experience the beginning of Spring. As the natural world around us re-awakens, friends and families together in celebration of Passover. Passover is a very ancient festival; a well spring of traditions that represents many important and interesting layers of our people’s history and culture.
Passover, also known as in Hebrew as “Pesach,” is one of three pilgrimage festivals from ancient Israel. Thousands of years ago our ancient ancestors in the land of Israel would travel hundreds of miles, often by foot, to make special offerings in the Temple. These sacrifices were both in commemoration of the Exodus from slavery in Egypt, as well as offerings of thanksgiving for the yearly harvest of barley.
Like the two other pilgrimage festivals in our tradition, those being Sukkot in the fall and Shavuot in the summer, Passover has both an agricultural and historical dimensions. In some ways this combination of Passover’s historical and agricultural components mirrors our unique identity as American Jews.
As Reform Jews in America, each of us practices Judaism in a way that imbues our everyday experiences with spirituality and meaning while maintaining our sacred connection to Jewish past.
On Sunday, April 15th our community will gather together for a special concert program entitled “Gershwin and Beyond.” The musical program features a mix of classic and contemporary selections from the American Musical Theater repertoire, specifically highlighting the contributions of Jewish American composers and lyricists to the enduring art from. The hour-long musical program will also feature Solel’s own music director Russell Stern as well as Cantorial Soloist Laurie Akers of Or Shalom in Vernon.
In terms of cultural freedom and artistic expression, the Jews of America are nearly unique in our people’s long history. This is why throughout the planning of “Gershwin and Beyond,” I am reminded Passover is also referred to in the Torah as “Zeman Cheiruteinu” or “The Season of our Freedom.” During
Passover of 2018/5778, I encourage us to think of this freedom as both a historical liberation from Egyptian slavery, and as a reaffirmation of our American freedom of artistic expression. May we never take for granted these opportunities and blessings within our lives.
Chag Pesach Sameach,
Cantor Jay O’Brien