The lesson of Passover goes beyond commemorating the liberation of the Jews. Louisiana rabbis also see a challenge to strive for the freedom of all people.
“The Passover is a holiday that reminds us of what it was like to be slaves and to live in conditions of indignity, and we move from that condition of indignity or depravity to freedom and integrity ... then to recognize there are other people in the world who are experiencing that right now and to think about how we can bring those people to the table metaphorically,” said Rabbi Jordan Goldson, of Congregation B’nai Israel in Baton Rouge.
Rabbi Edward Cohn, of Congregation Temple Sinai in New Orleans, said Passover is universal.
“Passover is the oldest socio-drama. It’s a ritualized re-enactment of the Jewish story of liberation from bondage,” Cohn said. “We dream and rededicate ourselves to the liberation of all people.”
The weeklong Jewish holiday celebrates the deliverance of the ancient Israelites from slavery in Egypt.
This year’s Passover starts at sundown Monday. The first and sometimes second day of Passover is marked by the traditional Seder feast in the homes with the unleavened bread, prayers and retelling of the story of liberation in the homes of families.
The unleavened bread represents the Jews’ haste to leave Egypt before the bread was done.
“Not only do we talk about it, but we relive it to a certain extent,” said Rabbi Thomas Gardner, of Beth Shalom Synagogue in Baton Rouge.
“The whole Passover seder and the holiday is designed around helping us to both remember what it was like to be slaves and celebrate our freedom from that,” Goldson said.
The seder is always relevant, the rabbis said.
“It’s always new. It’s never stale,” Cohn said. “When we look at the unleavened bread, the matzo, we see not something that happened 3,500 to 4,000 years ago, but we see something that happened to me.”
Though Passover is a homebound holiday, Goldson said non-Jews or “strangers” are often invited to homes to share in the seder, Goldson said.
“We in fact say in the seder, ‘Let those who are hungry come and eat’ ... It is a tradition to invite guests,” Goldson said.
Many congregations also have community seders — usually by reservations — after the first night of Passover. Gardner said another lesson all people can appreciate from Passover is the message of redemption.
“There are different kinds of redemption,” Gardner said. “Redemption wherever you’re in a bad place that God can help you and you can become free of your problems whether they are physical problems or addiction problems or psychological problems or whatever your problems are.”
Community Passover seders are set for 5:30 p.m. Tuesday at B’nai Israel, 3354 Kleinert Ave., Baton Rouge; 7 p.m. Tuesday at Beth Shalom, 9111 Jefferson Highway, Baton Rouge; and 6 p.m. Tuesday at Temple Sinai, 6227 St. Charles Ave., New Orleans. Temple Sinai will also have a Wednesday seder for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender communities.
For seder reservations or other information, contact B’nai Israel at (225) 343-0111 or go to http://bnaibr.org; Beth Shalom at (225) 924-6773 or go to http://bethshalomsynagogue.org; and Temple Sinai at (504) 861-3693 or go to http://www.templesinaino.org.
Park Forest Baptist Church in Baton Rouge is holding a spirit-filled revival — except the church isn’t calling it a revival.
“We’re calling it (Gospel Extravaganza) because it seems that folk don’t get excited about revival meeting,” said the Rev. Lawrence Robertson, Park Forest’s pastor.
Whatever the label, Robertson said the event — scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Monday through Wednesday — is promising outstanding preaching and “uplifting gospel music nightly” featuring guests choirs and soloists, including Season 10 “American Idol” contestant Clifford Johnson.
The speaker will be the Rev. Donnie O. Gambrell, of South Carolina.
“Our church needs a revival,” Robinson said. “I know that (Gambrell is) going to present an inspiring, uplifting, encouraging message, because that’s what he’s about.”
The theme of the revival is “Hope in God. I will yet praise Him.”
Robertson, a Thibodaux native, said it’s a good time for the church’s second revival in his four years at Park Forest Baptist, 4517 Lassen Drive.
“I placed it here in the time that we did because during the Passion Week people are God-focused and perhaps it will help them prepare for Resurrection Day,” he said. “Hopefully, the message will help them go beyond Resurrection Day and experience resurrection power on a daily basis.”
Take up the Noble Woman Challenge, a guest speaker urged during Women’s Day service on Sunday at New St. John Baptist Church in Baton Rouge.
“I challenge you to focus daily on the biblical virtues of a true noble woman,” said Kim Hunter Reed, an educational consultant and former state government and educational official. “Incorporate those virtues into your homes, into your families, with your children and in your jobs.”
The dictionary defines noble as possessing “high” or “excellent” qualities, Reed said, but the true meaning of a being a noble woman is found in Proverbs 31. The famous chapter describes a virtuous and noble woman who takes care of her family in extraordinary ways.
“It is indeed a grand list and a grand goal, and it is a goal that lies ahead of us as women of faith and people of faith in our communities,” Reed said.
The Noble Woman Challenge looks for a woman who is “Proverbs-certified” and “faith-fortified,” said Reed, a member of St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church.
A women of nobility is not only blessed but a blessing to others, Reed said.
Reed began her talk by recognizing March as Women’s History Month, mentioning some noble women and acknowledging that significant gains have been made by women. But Reed said there’s still a long way to go in the fight for equality.
“The struggles are tough but as God-fearing women we know that great things can happen through him,” Reed said. “We must as women not only encourage others to aim higher but to go higher.”
Reed, a Lake Charles native, serves as a national higher education consultant with HCM Strategists, a policy and advocacy firm based in Washington, D.C.
Her past positions include chief of staff for the Louisiana Board of Regents, reporter at WBRZ-TV Channel 2, in Baton Rouge and deputy chief of staff for former Gov. Kathleen Blanco.
Reed holds a doctorate in public policy from Southern, a master’s in public administration and a bachelor’s in broadcast journalism from LSU.
Faith Matters runs every other Saturday in The Advocate. Reach Terry Robinson at (225) 388-0238 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.