Passover. It is the oldest continually practiced ritual in Western civlization. It was an ancient tradition when Jesus was a young boy and more than a thousand years old before Mohammed emerged from the Arabian desert.
It is the holiday that every Jew, no matter how committed or disaffected still feels drawn to celebrate. It is about gathering together in a communal experience which takes place not in the synagogue but in the home. It is about family and friends. It is about re-connecting with tradition and history in a time when individuals who seek their own truth is rampant.
In an age in which what is new changes in a milisecond, it is comforting to find something which appeals to our deep desire for connection to our collective past.
And yet everything does change. The ancient philosophical traditions of the world recognized that truth. From Heraclitus to Buddha to Solomon, from our grandparents to our selves, we who experience life over decades know nothing stays the same.
Yet transformation is important, even vital. We are moving forward and our traditions must be re-interpreted in light of what we are seeking in order for them to retain value in our lives.
Those who remain fundamentalist in their thinking threaten the future of their own tradition. Those who seek God through control, coersion and forced conversion to their own beliefs re-visit the story of Passover. It is story which proclaims the ultimate failure and self-destruction of those who enslave others.
There is n New American Haggadah edited by Jonathan Safran Foer and translated by Nathan Englander, two young prominent Jewish writers.
In their introduction they write “The need for new Haggadahs does not imply the failure of existing ones, but the struggle to engage everyone at the table in a time that is unlike any that has come before.” ….. “Like all Haggadahs before it, this one hopes to be replaced.”
So the paradox is namely the truth of change. It must emerge from the tradition which gives it emotional and historical context, yet give meaning and understanding to the contemporary individual who seeks to make sense of life itself.
In an age of chaos when we feel the need to ground ourselves in some form of tradition, we must allow for it to evolve as well. Only when we recognize that truth will it continue to provide meaning for us in the present moment.