The question, ‘what do all these laws, rules and ordinances, that God has commanded you?’ triggers an instant reflex response – that is not entirely correct.
We recognise the question, surely, as the question of the wise child from the Haggadah – the answer trips off our tongue – ‘and you shall teach the child the laws of Pesach’ even to include a detail about the Afikomen.
But the question is actually a Biblical quote, from Devarim. Here the question, placed into the mouth of an future descendant of the generation who wandered in the wilderness, is answered, ‘We were Pharaoh’s slaves in Egypt and God brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand.’
So there are two answers to this one question – a question that looms over us at this time of year. One is technical, legal and practical. The other is existential; about our human condition and our relationship to oppression, freedom and identity. These two answers will shape our intellectual engagement over the next two Shabbatot that separate us from Pesach.
This Shabbat I’ll be sharing practicalities, some of the laws of Pesach and trying to get to an understanding of what the Rabbis really had in mind when setting out what it means to go Chametz free – and what it doesn’t. It will be a time and money saving exercise and also one that will, I hope, open up our understanding of the Halachic process. I’ll do a bit as a sermon and will be able to do some Q&A in the post-Kiddush slot. This Shabbat we will engage with the answer to the question given in the Haggadah.
And next Shabbat, 12th April, we will be joined by two guests working to promote freedom and overthrow oppression in our contemporary world. Yonatan Berger and Charlotte Fischer are working to remind us that the meaning of all these laws, rules and ordinances is not just the laws, rules and ordinances, but the message that no person should be oppressed.
I hope you will be able to join us.
(and I’ve reposted my top ten tips for a liberating Pesach for anyone interested - http://rabbionanarrowbridge.blogspot.co.uk/2014/04/10-top-tips-for-liberating-pesach.html)