The God Squad: Passover
Wine is not merely the symbol of joy. Wine is joy. The Bible commands us to “Serve the Lord in joyousness.” (Psalm 100:2) and drinking the four cups of wine during the Seder meal on Passover brings us a ritually induced, but not quite excessive, inebriation. There is also the miracle of how the simple substance of grapes can become transformed into the complex substance of wine.
In the old days when water was mostly contaminated, wine was the only safe drink. Safety and joy are in the wine cups and are also in our faithful service to God.
The shank bone and roasted egg are not eaten, but they are displayed. They remind us of biblical Judaism where serving God meant bringing animal and grain sacrifices to the Temple and to the Jewish priests. The Seder meal is the product of rabbinic Judaism where the Synagogue replaced the Temple; where rabbis replaced the priests; where prayers replaced animal sacrifices; and where the Passover Haggadah (the rabbinic script for the Seder meal) replaced the pilgrimage to Jerusalem to offer up sacrifices on the Hag, the holiday.
The Muslim pilgrimage called the Haj is from this same root word. The shank bone and egg remind us that our rituals today were not necessarily the rituals of yesterday nor will they be the rituals of tomorrow. Some families place an orange on the Seder plate because of the old remark of a traditionalist, “Letting women read from the Torah is like putting an orange on the Seder plate.”
While remembering and honoring the old rituals of our faiths, we must also make room for a few new oranges.
(Send ALL QUESTIONS AND COMMENTS to The God Squad via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Rabbi Gellman is the author of several books, including “Religion for Dummies,” co-written with Fr. Tom Hartman.)
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