Thursday, April 10, 2014

Rabbi Barry Silver on Passover

I (am) attempt(ing) to recapture some of my thoughts from last Sunday's sermon that I delivered about Passover.  Although it was a somewhat daunting task, since I do not write out my sermons, I could not "pass over" this opportunity to share some of my comments for those who could not attend or do not remember all that I said (including me). -- Rabbi Barry Silver
When I was a kid, we used to have a Passover Seder every night for all 7 days of Passover.  This was a lot of work for my mother.   My father used to say to my mother, "Passover means the end of slavery, but don't you get any ideas."

On Passover Jews used to sacrifice a lamb.  Bulls and ewes were also slaughtered.  Reforms have changed all this and today most Jews regard animal sacrifice as a bunch of bull (and goats).  In the old days they used to sacrifice a ewe at the altar.  Today, the only ewe we sacrifice is the "you" that you are today, for the "you" we could become if we lived up to our highest potential and our highest ideals.  We sacrifice this old "you" at the altar of change...

The word "sacrifice" means to make holy. Today, we realize that there is nothing holy about killing an innocent animal.  We still share our ancestor's desire to make our lives holy, and to approach a power greater than ourselves, but we do this differently today. Rather than sacrificing an innocent animal, we sacrifice our time, our money and our talents to make the world and our lives better.

Passover is the springtime holiday which reminds us of the miracle of nature.  Our species' rampant destruction of the planet is sacrilege, our ruin of Creation is blasphemy, and our desecration of the Earth is profanity against all that is sacred.  These crimes are far more serious than any words that come out of our mouths or any violation of ritual. 

Our species all too often treats the world in an "awful" manner, instead of an "awe full" manner, i.e. full of awe.

Passover occurs in the springtime, when we commemorate the miracle of growth and of agriculture.  To fully observe this festival, we should speak out strongly in favor of protecting the Agricultural Reserve in this county.  If we don't translate the ritual into the spiritual and the actual, then we are just going through the motions of celebrating Passover and we will have "passed over" the most important part of this celebration.  We may gain from the time with the family, and enjoy some nice food, sing some lovely songs, and participate in ancient customs, but without action, we are missing the essential element of this observance... 

On Passover, we seek freedom in all aspects of our lives, including our government. Our government has been enslaved by an influential minority so we now have a government of the wealthy, by the lobbyists and for the special interests. With the recent decision in McCutcheon, which equates money with speech, the United States Supreme Court has told Americans that we have a political system in which "money talks". All Americans should work towards liberating our government from such control at this Passover season.

On Passover we sing the Four Questions. I could not think of a better place to sing the Four Questions than before a Unitarian Universalist congregation, which is devoted to science, reason and the rational mind. I told the children that they should rejoice to be free, on this festival of freedom, from religious indoctrination and free from other types of parents who seek to brainwash their children to believe religious nonsense, and instead are raised to ask questions in an atmosphere where their rational minds are respected.

The great physicist Niels Bohr began his lectures by inviting his students to treat all his comments not as statements, but as questions, to be explored, discussed and evaluated.  If all religious propositions were treated the same way, the world would be a much more peaceful and more rational place.

From a sermon about Passover by Rabbi Barry Silver at 1stUUPB on Sunday, March 6, 2014.

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