April 13, 2006

FROM THE ARCHIVES: WHYFORE ON THIS DAY ABOVE ALL OTHERS DO WE EAT PARSLEY?:

The 'Karpas' conundrum (Rabbi Avi Shafran, 4/05/04, Jewish World Review)

The dipping of a vegetable into saltwater at the start of the Seder, seems eerily reminiscent of a conversation recounted in the Talmud between G-d and the first man. When Adam hears G-d's pronouncement that his sin has relegated him to eating "the grasses of the field" like animals, he cries, only to be reassured that he will still be able to eat bread, human food, albeit "by the sweat of your brow" — with hard work and effort.

What pertinence, though, does the recalling of that account have to the Seder's karpas-ritual? What are vegetables and tears and sweat — not to mention the memory of history's first sin — doing at the very onset of a festive gathering?

The key to the mystery may lie in remembering that the Seder is not only the start of Passover but the beginning of a period that will culminate in the holiday of Shavuos. The seven weeks between the first day of Passover and Shavuos are in fact counted down (or, actually, up) with the "counting of the Omer" on each night of those forty-nine.

Noteworthy is that on both holidays bread plays a prominent role. On Passover, we eat unleavened bread; on Shavuot, the day's special Temple offering consists of two loaves of bread, which — in stark contrast to most flour-offerings — must be allowed to rise and become chametz.

Leaven is a symbol of the inclination to sin ("What keeps us [from You, G-d]?" goes the confession of one talmudic personage, "the leaven in the dough"). Perhaps, then, the period between Passover and Shavuos, between the holiday of leaven-less bread and that of leavened bread, reflects our acclimation to the human propensity to sin. It leads us to ponder that sin's inevitability should not render us hopeless, but rather that our selfish desires are — somehow — a force that can be channeled for good, for service to G-d.

Shavuos, then, would be the celebration of our having accepted — even if not fully comprehended — the goodness inherent in our existence despite our inherent shortcomings. It is the "answer" to the unanswerable question of why we are here. And so our bread on that day is purposefully leavened; it has absorbed and incorporated sin's symbol.


Have a happy and healthy Passover, but if you invite a goyim, don't let him ask the questions even if he is the youngest...

[Originally posted: 4/05/04]

Posted by Orrin Judd at April 13, 2006 11:42 PM
Comments

There is no such thing as a goyim. One may find one goy, two goyim.

Posted by: Bernard Hassan at April 5, 2004 9:58 PM

Unloop.

Posted by: oj at April 14, 2006 9:17 AM
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