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Shining a New Light on Passover

Shining a New Light on Passover, 2009

Beginning early Wednesday morning, April 8th, when the first rays of sunlight peak out from behind the hills, as most of us are still dreaming of the grand spring festival of freedom–Passover–that begins that night, Jews around the world will also observe an occurrence in nature that happens only once every 28 years.  This momentous occasion is the opportunity to recite Birkat HaChammah or the Blessing of the Sun.  Over 1500 years ago, the rabbis of the Talmud dictated that we should say this special blessing every time the sun cycles through the exact place in the heavens as it was on the 4th day of creation (Wednesday!), when the sun first came into being.  “One who sees the sun at its turning point should say, ‘Blessed is God who reenacts the works of Creation.’ And when is this? Abaya said: every 28th year.–Talmud, Tractate Berachot 59b  (To read the explanation of why this only occurs every 28 years go to: http://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/820928/jewish/FAQs.htm. Go to URJ.orgif you are interested in finding more resources about Birkat HaChammah.) Though Pesach and Birkat HaChammah have no intrinsic connection with one another, their confluence this year may yet be instructive.  Passover is our regular reminder of our narrow escape from bondage and enslavement in Egypt long ago.  Each year at the seder we celebrate our freedom and our ability to serve only that which is holy.  This year the proximity of Passover and the Blessing of the Sun affords us a chance to consider our relationship to the sun and the natural world.  What would happen if we seriously asked ourselves these questions this year, after all it is Passover:  In what ways are we still in bondage to our own bloated energy consumption?  What steps could we take to reduce our dependence upon and enslavement to oil and other fossil fuels?  What has been the impact of our actions on the environment and the global climate?  Have we invested sufficient resources in the development of alternative energy sources? (Yes, there were four questions!)  The answers may truly set us free!!

As we gaze at the blazing ball of fire that is our source of life on its 206th anniversary tour, the Blessing of the Sun may offer us new ways of thinking about liberating ourselves from destructive behaviors that degrade our planet and impact negatively on our precious natural resources. We can start our journey to “Energy Freedom” in our own homes.  Traditionally, the night before Passover, families make a careful Search for Hametz around the house, looking for those random bits of leavening hiding in the nooks and crannies.  Hametz represents those things in our lives that are bloated.  What if, this Passover, in addition to searching for Hametz, we looked around our homes for ways in which we could conserve energy.  Dayenu…it would be enough!  Why not make your concern for the environment a central focus of your seder this year?  What symbol would you add to the Passover table to engage the participants in an enlightening discussion on conservation?  How many plagues confronting the environment can you name?  Add more wine to your cups for every idea that you generate for new ways to reduce, reuse, and recycle!  If every family were to do just one more thing to conserve, Dayenu…it would be enough! In every generation we must liberate ourselves from those places we are stuck.  This Passover let us explore together how to redeem not only ourselves but our world.  Each one of us might just be the Moses we have been waiting for. Join us for our Congregation’s Second Night of Passover Sederbration on April 9th, as we explore further the connection between Passover the Blessing of the Sun and our environment.  (See the announcement elsewhere in the E-tone for more details about the Sederbration.)

Blessings for a Passover full of light,

Rabbi Greg Wolfe

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