The mid-month moon glows lambent
against the star-strewn sky
as, hungry and impoverished,
we gather to partake.
Wondering and wordless
we filter through the door.
Each soul is undiminished:
the sum of all its parts.
The pristine table, candle-lit,
extends along the room.
Sitting down as strangers,
by night’s end we are kin.
We fill each other’s goblets;
in their patina we see
each image, undistorted, and
each bears the stamp of God.
Relinquishing all judgment:
none wicked nor more wise; at
the table of the peerless Host
His children reunite.
In a commentary about Seder night, http://ziegler.aju.edu/Default.aspx?id=8259, Reb Mimi Feigelson asks this question, “What would you do, how would you prepare, what would you need to know if I told you that this year (and every year to come) you would be sitting at God’s table???”
Reb Mimi brings a teaching by the Tosafot* in which we learn that we are all sitting at God’s table – the Aramaic expression of which is “A’tacha d’Rachamana Samchinan.”
She says, “It is here that we are taught that even though it may appear that we are the ones that engage in all the work and toil required for seder night, it is at the moment that we sit down that we are asked to surrender ownership of all that is in front of us and recognize that we are all the children of our Creator, and we are sitting together, regardless of where we may be geographically, at God’s table.”
In the last two Parashot that we read in the yearly cycle, Tazria and Metsora, and which always fall near Pesach, we read of the treatment of the leper, “the other”, and the ultimate aspiration that he or she will belong in society and not be exiled “outside the camp.”
Modern society is fractured into groups excluding “others” on grounds of ethnic origin, religious differences, political affiliations and sexual orientation to mention only a few.*
Reb Mimi wonders, “What would it mean to be set free of the enslavement of our self-definitions and acquisitions/possessions? How can we open our heart and soul to be in life and belong to God in a way that we’ve never experienced before? What does it mean that our hands are no longer holding on to emotional, psychological and even spiritual territories that we have declared in the past as ‘mine’, allowing us to receive divine abundance like never before?”
She concludes, “For Rabban Gamliel, as we will read in the haggadah, seder night is defined by the three words “Pessach“, “Matzah” and “Maror“. For me, the prerequisite for this are the three Aramaic words “A’tacha d’Rachamana Samchinan“!
“I pray that this seder night we will be blessed with the freedom and courage to sit together at God’s table! I pray that we will be able to greet each other with “shabbat shalom” and “chag sameach” as we sit down together; knowing, trusting and believing that indeed, A’tacha d’Rachamana Samchinan!”
*The Tosafot are medieval commentaries on the Talmud. They take the form of critical and explanatory glosses, printed, in almost all Talmud editions, on the outer margin and opposite Rashi’s notes.
**Numerous organizations and initiatives are designed to counter these divisive societal tendencies, some of which are, sadly, endorsed by religious authorities. (I mentioned the attempt to exclude a child with Down’s syndrome from a Talmud Torah in this post from last year on Parashat Metsora https://parashapoems.wordpress.com/2015/04/16/metsora-outcast/).
It is notable that earlier this month, dozens of Israeli Orthodox rabbis signed a religious edict urging religious communities to accept gay members without prejudice. The Beit Hillel organization, a Modern Orthodox rabbinic group comprising 200 men and women that promotes inclusiveness in Orthodox Judaism, published a document the aim of which is to encourage “an integrated path between religious law and loving-kindness and peace.”