Passover and pluralism

Passover and pluralism

Rabbi Douglas Sagal is religious leader of Temple Emanu-El of Westfield. The comments below are excerpted from SpeakEZ, the e-newsletter of the Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest NJ:

It is the custom of many who observe the Pesach seder to place three matzot on the table, with the middle one becoming the afikoman. 

There are many explanations for the presence of three matzot, but my favorite is that it represents the diversity of the Jewish people. According to this teaching, the three matzot represent the three categories of Jews: Kohen, Levi, and Yisrael. It is only when the three different “types” of Jews are nestled together that we can truly celebrate the Pesach in fullness.

I was privileged in February to join a number of rabbinic colleagues on a brief visit to Israel sponsored by the World Zionist Organization, the Israel Foreign Ministry, and our own Jewish federation. On this trip, Orthodox, Reform, and Conservative clergy traveled together, ate meals together (strictly kosher of course!), and shared in learning. 

The most profound learning came from within the group itself. The Jewish clergy on the trip shared not only in the learning, but shared professional experiences and know-how with one another. Some of the most interesting exchanges took place on the bus or over meals, as Jewish clergy from all our diverse streams told stories of how we deal with the joys and burdens of serving the Jewish community. 

At a time when there is rising tension in Israel among the variety of Jewish streams, it was wonderful to be able to model for ourselves cooperation and collegiality. I learned an enormous amount from my colleagues, older and younger, whose experiences of Jewish communal life provided a wonderful opportunity for us to share and grow together.

On Passover, we celebrate the diversity of Jewish life and recognize that all “streams” of Judaism must be present in order to enjoy the Pesach. May we continue to embrace diversity in our Jewish community and recognize that only when we embrace and support one another are we truly a kehilla kedosha, a holy community.

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