April 8, 2012
“On that night we were redeemed, and on that night we shall be redeemed.”
The Passover Seder is made up of two halves, roughly divided by the festive meal itself. The first part commemorates the redemption from Egypt as we retell the whole story of the departure from Egypt, starting with “Avadim hayinu, we were slaves to Pharaoh in Egypt, and Hashem our God took us out from there with a strong hand and an outstretched arm.” The second half concludes with the famous line, “Next year in Jerusalem!” our declaration of hope for the final redemption, when Jerusalem will be restored as the holy city and the source of Torah for all the nations.
According to Rabbi Yitzchak Sender in The Commentators’ Haggadah, the second half of the Seder begins after the meal and the third cup of wine, when we pour another cup for Elijah the Prophet, and open the door to see if he’s arrived yet. (There’s lots of additional explanations for opening the door at this point, of course.)
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October 11, 2011
Then Jonah went out of the city and sat down east of the city, and made a sukkah for himself there. He sat under it in the shade, waiting to see what would become of the city. Jonah 4:5
Last year I co-led a tour of Israel, and on our last night, on the way to the airport, our bus driver took us on a detour. He brought us to a tent the Shalit family had set up right in the heart of Jerusalem across the street from the Prime Minister’s residence. The family was planning to occupy this tent for as long as their son, Gilad, had to occupy a cell as a captive of Hamas. The tent spoke of solidarity with their son and protest against his captivity, against the government’s handling of his case, against the injustice of it all. A couple of our tour members jumped off the bus to tell the Shalits that we were praying for them and for Gilad’s release before we drove off.
Since then lots of other tents have been set up all over Israel, with a different message. People are living in tents to protest soaring housing costs and what they consider inequities of social policy in Israel. Protest tents like this have a long pedigree: Jonah sets up a booth, literally a sukkah, to protest God’s plan to let the repentant Ninevites off the hook. And the festival of Sukkot or booths is a kind of protest too. It’s the most joyous of the festivals, and when we sit in the sukkah for eight days, we’re mostly celebrating, not protesting. But perhaps we’re doing both.
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