Become with Us
By Rabbi Lori Shapiro
As the days grow longer, the signs of spring have sprung: oblong sliding ponds of light well into the early evening; bottlebrush and coral trees blossoming throughout Los Angeles; daylight breeding a giddy insouciance upon us; and that life-breeding tug to the beach to watch a sunset, our skin warmed by the penetrating rays. And yet – something feels, well, off. Where is our freedom holiday, that harbinger of springtime in the Jewish calendar? How is it possible that it is still almost one month away?!?
The Jewish calendar is a curious one. We already discussed how 5779 is a leap year, and the result is a mid-Spring Passover ritual. Open Temple’s Passover Seder Quest, on April 20, acknowledges and celebrates this unique later springtime holiday. As we take to the streets of Venice, weaving throughout time and space, we interplay with the history of our Hyksos descendants and those who treaded the streets of Venice before us.
Wait. Hyksos descendants? Huh?!?
Based on the writings of Egyptian historian Manetho, whose histories influenced the writings of Josephus, some scholars speculate the ancient Israelites are rooted in an ancient people called the Hyksos. A population of mixed Asiatics and Habirus (migrants who were most likely early Hebrews in the 16th c. BCE), they populated Egypt in the ancient world and are the closest artifactual evidence of the presence of something Israelite-y looking in ancient Egypt. The Hyksos entered into Egypt causing a great stir, and later left to dwell in Jerusalem.
If we are unsure of our true history, how might we make this ritual meaningful when we are unsure of its veracity?
Our Passover story comes to us in both the Torah and the Haggadah; neither of which reveal with absolute certainty what historically happened, but serve as more memory pieces for our “dinner theatre” Seder interplay. That’s the point of Passover – to interact with history, memory, what was, what is, and what will be. That is the power of the Haggadah; and explains why Moses’ name is not mentioned, but rather, we focus on a God concept. Passover is the holiday where Mordecai Kaplan’s concept of “God as the force that makes for Salvation” animates us – what can I become? And we are reminded in the very imprint of the Hebrew in our grandest metaphor for God – the Tetragrammaton (the Yud- Hey – Vov and Hey – is actually a contraction for the verb “to be” – God was, is and will be): that on Passover, we are asked to consider how God runs through who we were, are and will become.
Hyksos, Israelite, Jew-ishly curious or otherwise, the ritual space Open Temple creates for this journey invites you to wear comfortable shoes on April 20, bring your yoga mat and prepare yourself for a Seder Quest into memory and beyond; Open Temple Seder Quest is a group Eisodus (going into) and Exodus (going out of), as we Walk through what was, Embody what is and Enter into What Will Be.
Become with us.