DAY 647: Telling the Story of Passover

April 8, 2014
By bethmordecai
no comments.

DAY 647: Telling the Story of Passover

Dear Hevreh,
As we approach our final week of preparation for the holiday of Passover, my mind turns to the art of telling the story of Passover. Stories are more than simply their content, they are the methods, the timing, the layers of how that content is shared, and the story of Passover is no different.
Our primary method of telling the story of Passover is through the reading of the Haggadah  at the Passover seder. It is an ancient ritual, but not that ancient. The seder was crafted by the rabbis of the Tannaitic period (approximately 100-300 CE), which means that this scene most definitely never happened. So how was the story of Passover shared prior to the seder?
We get a hint at the answer by virtue of the fact that the haggadah itself does not re-tell the story of Passover, rather it is a rabbinic interpretation of six verses in the Torah on what the Israelites would say when they came to perform their Passover sacrifices:

And thou shalt speak and say before the LORD thy God: ‘A wandering Aramean was my father, and he went down into Egypt, and sojourned there, few in number; and he became there a nation, great, mighty, and populous. And the Egyptians dealt ill with us, and afflicted us, and laid upon us hard bondage. And we cried unto the LORD, the God of our fathers, and the LORD heard our voice, and saw our affliction, and our toil, and our oppression. And the LORD brought us forth out of Egypt with a mighty hand, and with an outstretched arm, and with great terribleness, and with signs, and with wonders. And He hath brought us into this place, and hath given us this land, a land flowing with milk and honey. And now, behold, I have brought the first of the fruit of the land, which Thou, O LORD, hast given me.’ And thou shalt set it down before the LORD thy God, and worship before the LORD thy God. (Deuteronomy 26:5-10) 

Perhaps the reason the rabbis focused the haggadah on interpreting these verses was to keep the continuity of the Passover ritual from one generation to the next. In other words, prior to the seder, Jews would tell the story through performing a sacrifice. Thus the seder tells the story through the lens of that sacrifice. 
We continue that tradition today our use of the haggadah, yet in recent years there has been a shift away from simply reading the haggadah in the fashion of our ancient rabbis, to telling our own stories of the meaning of the Passover. In other words, just like the rabbis adapted the story of the ancient sacrifice to fit their storytelling style, so too do we adapt the rabbis’ version to create a meaningful story for ourselves in connecting with this beautiful holiday of redemption and freedom.
Over the course of the next couple of weeks we will have many opportunities to share the Passover stories in some unique and personal ways (so please stay tuned for our weekly events and services email on Wednesday). Through our storytelling, both in words and in rituals, we will continue the tradition of telling story of Passover as it must be told to be meaningful to our generation.
Kol Tuv and Hag Kasher v’Sameah,
Rabbi Ari Saks 


Note: This image of Rotschild Haggadah was donated to Wikimedia Commons by the National Library of Israel as part of a collaboration project with Wikimedia Israel

Category : Passover Rabbi Rabbi's Journal
Tag :