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March 22, 2013  RSS feed
Rabbinically Speaking

Text: T T T

Rabbinically Speaking

The Passover Hagaddah – A Story without a Superstar
By Rabbi JOEL SIMON Congregation Schaarai Zedek

When LeBron James announced that he was taking his talents to South Beach, the biggest superstar in basketball was moving from a small market team, the Cleveland Cavaliers, to a much bigger market, the Miami Heat.

While Cleveland fans were crushed, no one else was too surprised, as the only question had really been which big city LeBron would be going to. As a basketball fan from Denver, I understand Cleveland’s plight. We went through the same “up and down” as Carmelo Anthony decided whether or not to stay with the Nuggets before more or less demanding a trade to New York. While Cleveland has been struggling since their loss of LeBron, Denver has been a different story. While they don’t have one player anyone considers to be a superstar, they were left with an entire roster of players who would be starting on many other teams. Without one dominant player there is a different high scorer most nights, meaning everyone on the team goes into every game knowing that they could be the star of the game, perhaps making them play harder in general. Without one dominant player, without a superstar, the Nuggets are a better team than they were with one.

You might be asking yourself, “Why on Earth has Rabbi Simon just written an entire paragraph of sports analysis in the Jewish Press?” At our Passover Seder, we all tell the story of the Exodus out of Egypt, the Israelites’ move from slavery to freedom. As we tell the story, however, at least in the traditional Haggadah, the “superstar” of the story is almost nowhere to be found. Moses, contrary to popular belief, does actually appear once in the traditional Haggadah, but it is in a small midrash after the plagues, and nowhere with regard to his role in leading the Israelites out of Egypt or in the wilderness. While many of us will use modern Haggadot that do include Moses, it is still important for us to note his absence from the traditional text. Most scholars/rabbis will tell us that Moses is predominantly left out of the Haggadah to give God the credit for freeing the Israelites. Also, as Christianity was teaching that Jesus was partially divine, it was important that no one make the same assumption about Moses.

While both explanations are probably correct, as we are in the middle of March Madness, I would like to look at Moses’ near absence in the basketball terms described above. The Haggadah challenges us to see ourselves as if we were among the ones who left Egypt, and while Moses may have been the human superstar of the Israelite team, there was a whole team around him. With Moses left out of the story, we each have the potential to be that leader, the one who could solve any of the problems which face our people, or us individually, today.

When we read the Passover story without Moses, we can each see ourselves as the Moses in our lives, as the one who can seek strength from God to lead us from where we are to where we hope to be. The Israelites were a great team with Moses as our leader, but without him, perhaps we can be even stronger, as each of us has the potential to stand up and be this Passover’s MVP.

Rabbinically Speaking is published as a public service by the Jewish Press in cooperation with the Tampa Rabbinical Association which assigns the column on a rotating basis.

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