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30/03/2024 09:32:02 AM


Rabbi Shoshana Kaminsky

One of my favourite Jewish texts is the one that appears part of the way through the Haggadah: “In every generation, each of us should regard ourselves as though we personally were redeemed from slavery in Egypt.” These words embody the immediacy I hope to convey when I lead a seder—the idea that we are not re-enacting the exodus, but rather ourselves living through it. The idea that each of us is called to imagine the experience of slavery through eating bitter herbs and dry matzah, and that each of us has the opportunity to feel the exuberance of liberation.

Our prayerbook Mishkan T’filah includes a text exhorting us to remember the Exodus from Egypt each and every day, with the specific instruction, “depart from what enslaves.” Our people were freed from slavery 3000 years ago, but we still bind ourselves, sometimes in positive ways, often in negative ways. Do we feel obligated to answer emails that arrive at 11:00 pm? Do we commit ourselves to crazy exercise regimes and to eating tasteless foods as we try to look like fashion models? Are we putting everyone else first and ourselves last? What enslaves us?

Within Judaism, we understand that our freedom brought with it new obligations, but that these we chose to adopt. We chose the mitzvot, religious commands, knowing that they enriched our lives and potentially brought us closer to God. We chose to bind ourselves to community, because life lived in community is so much better than living on our own.

Only a few weeks remain until I’m cut loose from Beit Shalom synagogue after close to eighteen years. It has been an absolute joy, and even the obligations have sat lightly around my shoulders. I’m remembering now back to my induction, and the lovely charge delivered by Rabbi Jacqueline Ninio. She shared the story of the man lost in the desert, who finds a fruit tree by a spring to provide him with shelter from the sun, food, and water to drink. He searches for a blessing to give the tree that she does not already has and ultimately says, “May all your children be just like you.” And so I bless the community at Beit Shalom: may the generations to come be as fortunate as those who are here now

- Rabbi Shoshana Kaminsky

Wed, 26 June 2024 20 Sivan 5784