On Refraining from Chametz -do you?

 Passover week is a unique opportunity to affirm one’s Jewish identity and to feel connected to a larger community. Jews around the world observe Passover. No matter if one is of Ashkenazi or Sephardic origins, Ethiopian background or Persian, Passover customs and traditions help us relive the Exodus from Egypt and make the journey toward freedom and the Promised Land real for each one of us. Of course if you had the opportunity to participate in a Seder meal, the special foods and symbolic nature of the ritual bring us immediately to that connection. The salt water, the charoset and marror (bitter herbs) help us taste the servitude and enslavements. The four cups of wine bring us the promise of freedom and belonging. But it doesn’t stop there at the Seder table. This entire week of Passover is meant to help us connect in a powerful way. The rules for refraining from eating products with leavening called chametz can help us reaffirm the basic connection to our Jewishness. What we eat and how we eat help to define us as human beings. By refraining from bread and certain products during the entire week of Passover we can deepen our spiritual connection to our past and provide grounding to our Jewish identity. There is more to Passover than the Seder. Refraining from eating bread and pastas and pastries may be inconvenient; and it might be difficult but practicing this week-long discipline can help you reframe this holy Festival into an opportunity to commune with the Jewish people, your past, and your future. This is the way we Jews ensure that Judaism is something that is more than a bunch of rules handed down without meaning. When we understand that refraining from eating Chametz can with the right mindfulness deepen our connections to our traditions and bring Judaism into a daily perspective. We don’t just do this because it says so. We Reform Jews do this because it uplifts our souls toward a greater and more meaningful experience of living in the world. We do so because it deepens our connection with the Holy One. We eat matzah, the poor person’s bread; simple bread this week to remind us that we as a people came from the bottom of the social order in Egypt to become God’s treasured people at Mt. Sinai. We eat matzah to remind us of our roots. And in particular in 2010 –to remind us of the plight of most of the world –where food instability is real and people often don’t even have the poor person’s bread to eat –right here in our own back yard. This holiday about what to eat and what not to eat reminds us that there are so many who are struggling to eat. So this week especially deepen your ties to your people and your task as a holy people by not eating Chametz. Deepen your awareness of the food instability that causes such strife and pain around the world as you eat matzah. And reflect on your own journey from enslavements to freedom. Happy Passover.

Today is the Second Day of Counting the Omer

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