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Choose to Shine 


Passover is a time for family gatherings and strengthening the link from one generation to the next. It is a period of spring and renewal. It is characterized by cleaning out our homes as well as our spiritual standing. We take stock of who we are as a nation, as families, and as individuals. It is more than the Pesach sacrifice, matzah, and maror. It is a time for us to recognize our place in the world, and to work on ourselves to ensure we are on the right path.

I retain vivid and pleasant memories of the Sedarim at my grandfather’s table with all our cousins. It seemed like the reading took forever and the time to eat would never come as Grandpa rambled through the Haggadah. The hunt for the afikoman was the highlight of the evening. We had little idea as children how important this holiday was to our psyche and lives.

Many years have passed since those memorable days, and now I am the Zeidy. My children take a more active role in the Seder than I was ever able to when I was growing up “out of town.”  Their educational opportunities were much more robust than I enjoyed, although I am grateful to the rabbeim who moved their families to the sticks so a hick like me could enjoy a Jewish education. My journey to Jewish observance traces a direct line back to those hearty families who made their homes in Memphis, Tennessee in the 1970s and 1980s.

It is now my role to pass the torch of burning love for Hashem and our people. I hope to instill that in my children and grandchildren as they grow up in a world so different from what I experienced. It seems so much more complicated now than before there were smartphones, a world wide web, and other potential distractions. Of course, there are many good things available now that were never around in my days. Wonderful apps and libraries abound. It is our task to leverage the many blessings that Hashem provides us and avoid the pitfalls that come along with those gifts.

With the perspective of the decades I have lived as a religious Jew, I think about more than just the contrast between what we are supposed to do with our lives versus the boundless distractions placed in our paths. There is nothing wrong with enjoying the bounty that Hashem has seen fit to provide for us. But if we invest our time, thoughts, and resources into these as if they are the purpose rather than the means, then we lose sight of why we are here. Each person must make their determination for what they need to best serve Hashem versus serving themselves.

When I reflect on the message of Pesach, I think about what Hashem wants from us. He fought our enemies with the plagues in Egypt as well as at the sea in the most miraculous show of force in history. It is an ever-present mitzvah for us to think about these miracles. So one facet of the obligation is simply to think about what He did for us at that time and to feel thankful to Him for saving us from the hand of Pharaoh.

The mitzvos we celebrate during this holiday bring our families and friends together as we recount those miracles to ourselves and our children. Eating matzah, drinking the four cups of wine, tasting the maror and charoses, and telling the story of Passover all set the mood of feeling like royalty and acting accordingly. We are all kings and queens on this night.

Pesach is an opportunity to demonstrate our achdus, meaning our unity. We all celebrate with the same goals in mind. There is no room for machlokes. Our lives were all on the line, and we bind our futures together at the holy Seder table. Seeing us unite and get along with each other gives Hashem pure nachas and joy.

If we can carry these ideas forward throughout the entire year, they will strengthen us and demonstrate our true purpose.  

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