“Informing the Ordinary with the
Extraordinary Insights of the Tradition”

“An egg, a shank bone, four cups of wine, an unfilled cup — simple items which only man can hallow, informing the ordinary with the extraordinary insights of the tradition” — Rabbi Harold M. Schulweis (z”l) – When Jews Eat History,” Rabbi’s Altar Ego/VBS SHALOM

At the Passover Seder, Jews are invited to “eat history and drink theology. ”*  On the Seder plate are symbols linking the participants to the Exodus. The challenge for modern-day Jews is to bring the Haggadah to life, to invigorate the evenings’ rituals with questions and new observances, to update the ancient symbols with modern-day relevance.

Rabbi Schulweis added his own insights and interpretations to the tradition, some of which are listed below to inform preparations for the holiday.

Adding to Hasidic observance, he taught that, with the communal filling of the Cup of Elijah near Seder’s end, Jews take on the responsibility of dedicating themselves to the Passover of the future, turning “belief into behavior, ”** helping those in need move from darkness to light, from bondage to freedom.

May your Seder be rich with family and friends, food and melody, replete with new ritual and robust discussion.
— Chag Pesach Sameach —

from The Harold M. Schulweis Institute

*from”Today’s Exodus, Today’s Miracle,” Sh’ma, May 2, 1986
** from “Al Keyn” (Therefore)

 Reflections on Passover from the Works
of Rabbi Harold M. Schulweis (z”l)

The Uniqueness of Judaism: The Master Story – Passover  (audio lecture)
Understanding the “radical, revolutionary, philosophical, deeply spiritual character of Passover” and its profound influence on social ethics

PASSOVER: When Jews Eat History
A brief overview of the significance of the  symbols on the Seder plate

No Blessing over the Broken Matzah
Understanding yachatz, the broken matzah and the link to the promise of the future

PASSOVER: The Festival of Interdependence
Explaining a mystic dimension of the Seder and the Hasidic practice regarding the Cup of Elijah

Post-Seder Reflections
The importance of asking questions and inclusion of non-Jews and non-practicing Jews at the Seder, an answer to why we are told not to “abhor” our former taskmasters, the Egyptians and why we recite  Chatzi Hallel

Welcoming the Stranger (sermon audio)
(text transcription)
Remembering that we were slaves in Egypt and the imperative to welcome the stranger:Judaism is one continuous struggle against amnesia. Judaism is a recognition that if you forget your suffering, something snaps in you, and the Jewish connection is broken.”

The Passover Table: Thinking and Feeling the Haggadah
Linking the human struggle for freedom to the individual’s drive for meaning in life through mature love : Erich Fromm and Viktor Frankl

Exile (Poem)
“Rabbi Hanoch of Alexander believed, ‘The real exile of Israel in Egypt was that they learned to endure it…'”

Today’s Exodus, Today’s Miracle
“…a tale as extraordinary as any in the past, a Passover story in modern technological dress. In the dead of night, in trembling haste, thousands of black-skinned Falasha Jews fleeing from famine and discrimination in their homeland, Ethiopia, then refugees in Sudan, were secretly boarded onto rented trucks.”.

Passover Exodus and Redemption
Every religion has its master story, some core event that captures the spirit and the thrust of its faith.