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03/31/2023 10:01:56 AM


Rabbi Lisa Delson

I imagine most of us have a period in our life that stands out, in a positive way, from the rest. Whether it was a year abroad, a dream vacation, summer camp, or a wedding. One such time in my life was in 2004-2005, my first year of Rabbinical School. Without even looking at pictures, I remember what I did, who I was with, and what I was thinking. Those memories are ingrained in my mind and etched on my heart. One phrase that has stuck with me all of these years is “Purim, Pesach, Packing.” The idea was once we got to the Purim celebrations, Passover soon followed, and then we were packing up our apartments and heading back to the states for the rest of our rabbinical studies. The implication was that even though the year feels like it stretches out forever, it will be over before we know it. The intermingling of Jewish time and secular time is resonant for me this year as I am planning my departure from PTS in a few short months.

Just a few weeks ago, we celebrated Purim with a great sense of levity and fun, even though the story of Esther, Mordechai, and Haman is anything but lighthearted. This holiday teaches us that even though we, as a people, have been through dire circumstances, we are resilient and are able to survive even the most dire decrees and circumstances. Ultimately, this is a story about a Diaspora Jewish community living Jewishly as a minority people and surviving great odds. However, the reality of living that life does not always feel safe. Our ancestors deeply knew the fear of being pushed out, forced to pick up, and move. The Purim message hit a little deeper this year as the Jewish community faces heightened antisemitism around the country and locally. Despite these bolder threats, we maintain our groundedness by reading the megillah, having a good time, and providing a fun experience for our youth.

Just one month later, Pesach is the holiday of freedom, redemption from slavery in Egypt. But just like at Purim, there is a thread of situations feeling unknown. The Israelites were freed from slavery but at each step out of Egypt they faced precarious situations, meeting the Red Sea before the part, facing the Egyptian army just as they had left, and wandering in the wilderness without their regular routines. One of the hallmarks of Pesach is matzah, the dry crackers that we are to substitute for any leavened bread throughout the festival. The Haggadah describes matzah as the Bread of Affliction, because it reminds us of the slavery that we faced in Egypt. The Torah says, “And they baked unleavened cakes of the dough that they had taken out of Egypt, for it was not leavened, since they had been driven out of Egypt and could not delay; nor had they prepared any provisions for themselves.” (Exodus 12:39) Rather than a bread of affliction, matzah is the result of having to leave in a hurry and taking with them what they could.

Purim and Passover are the anchoring holidays of the spring and what comes next is summer and transitions. Like my year in Israel, this spring is very meaningful. For my family and me, it is packing up a well-loved house that we have enjoyed over the last seven years. It means packing up the books in my study that have provided resources and lessons that I have been able to share with you over the past nine years. It also means packing up the memories of being together through a global pandemic, so many Purim shpiels, Passover seders, High Holy Days experiences, Shabbat observances, b’nai mitzvah, weddings, baby namings, and regular old days of living our Jewish values. Unlike the Israelites who left in a hurry with their matzah drying on the backs, I am leaving with a full heart and the knowledge that the relationships that we have built and connections we have made have strengthened this Jewish community and Judaism as a whole. In some sense we are always packing up for what life brings us next. Purim, Pesach, Packing, let’s see what comes next.

Tue, April 23 2024 15 Nisan 5784