“All right, let’s go around the table,” our rabbi said, sweeping his gaze over the people crowded around the long, tall table at the back of the bar’s patio. “Tell us your name and, let’s see… your favorite Passover dish.”
Sampson and I arrived late for the pre-study schmoozing yesterday evening, but we were just in time to dive into the monthly “Torah on Tap” discussion. We know almost everyone’s names without being told, and the regulars know ours by now. As the imaginary introduction baton passed from person to person, we learned that matzoh ball soup is a near-universal Passover favorite, that Sephardic versus Ashkenazi charoset is a topic of some debate, and that people who claim to love fiery, fresh-grated horseradish are acclaimed as stupendous tough guys and gals.
With the key issues (i.e., best Pesach food) settled amongst ourselves, we were free to begin our loud and lively conversation on the month’s topic: “Plagues, Torture, and Collective Punishment.” We read selections from Torah and Talmud, rabbis both modern and ancient, Israeli Supreme Court rulings and psalms. The intensity of our discussion was balanced by our comfort with one another as we sipped our stouts or our sodas.
I like to think that anyone who saw us there, a group of Jews freely and publicly displaying our passion for our text, our tradition, and our deep commitment to ethics, would have been able to tell that something vital and vibrant was at work. All of us there were busy people, many having come straight from a long day at work (which, in Sampson’s case, involved two draining flights with brand-new students), and yet it mattered to us all enough that we made the effort to come together with our community to study big issues through a Jewish lens. That tells me something about my people and my Judaism.
#BlogExodus, the brainchild of Rabbi Phyllis Sommer, invites participants to chronicle the weeks leading up to Passover through blog posts, photos, and other social media expressions.