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Passover: The Real New Year?

02/28/2022 09:10:07 AM

Feb28

Rabbi Ezray

Happy New Year!

No, it is not Rosh Hashana. It is also not January 1.

The real Jewish New Year is Passover. In Exodus 12:2, we read that Passover occurs at, “the head of the months, the first month of the year.” (How Rosh Hashana came to be seen as the Jewish New Year is another column). How is it that Passover celebrates the Jewish New Year?

One clue is that Exodus 13:4 specifies that Passover occurs, “in the spring.” Spring is a time of change and renewal. Passover is a time of rebirth and redemption of our people as we moved from slavery to freedom. Rituals connected to Passover, cleaning our homes, green vegetables, all reinforce that concept of new beginnings associated with the New Year.

A piece of springtime holiday is going outside. In his book, The Telling: How Judaism’s Essential Book Reveals the Meaning of Life, Mark Gerson writes: “This means going outside of who we are to evaluate what we should change and to imagine who we could be. This means going outside into the world, learning from its wisdom, and influencing it with our values and our conduct.” (p. 10) Going outside deepens the sense of how Passover is meant to be the New Year. 

As you look at other details connected to Passover, you can gain insight into what it means to celebrate a New Year. Gerson observes that the Torah commands us to celebrate Passover by eating the Passover offering and specifies that we are to not leave anything leftover. This detail creates a dynamic where we share our feast with our neighbors. Multiple families would need to get together in order to consume an entire lamb. The New Year is meant to be shared. That may be the fundamental act of a free person; to share our bounty with one another.

And as we gather to share a meal, we share the story, retelling and reliving via conversation and ritual the story of our liberation from slavery in Egypt. The New Year focuses on our essential story. We confront the complexities of freedom as we encounter the widespread variety of topics addressed by the Haggadah. Gerson writes, “The number and composition of subjects aroused in the Haggadah demonstrate just how pervasive, complicated, ambitions, and interesting the Jewish questions around freedom are.” (p. 17)

This year the concepts of renewal, sharing celebration together, and renewing our dedication to understand freedom feel particularly poignant. My hope is that this Passover can indeed feel like a New Year’s celebration, with safe gathering, reflections on renewal, and actions which bring freedom.

Here are some important dates to remember for Passover:
Judaism @ Home - Preparing for Passover Conversations: Sundays, March 27, April 3 & 10 - details to come about these learning opportunities.
Friday, April 15: First Night Seder - there will be no Babies & Blessings or Kabbalat Shabbat Services.
Saturday, April 16 at 10:00 am: Join us in the morning for Shabbat and Passover Festival Services!
Saturday, April 16 at 5:45 pm: Come join us at CBJ for our Second Night Seder! Registration coming soon.
Sunday, April 17 at 9:00 am: Morning Services at a location TBD.
Thursday, April 21: Our office will be closing early at 3:00 pm in observance of the last two days of Passover.
Friday, April 22 at 9:00 am: Join us again for services to celebrate Passover. Our office will be closed in observance of the holiday.
Saturday, April 23 at 10:00 am: We will be celebrating Shabbat and Passover together, along with remembering our loved ones with the Yizkor service.
More details will come as we get closer to the holiday.
If you are interested in hosting people on the first night of Passover or you are looking for a place to go for a first night Seder, please email Rebecca at rebecca@bethjacobrwc.org, and we will match everyone up.

Mon, August 15 2022 18 Av 5782