Passover is this week and in the past our community has celebrated Seder. In the Jewish faith, many rites involved the family. Even in the long, drawn-out Seder there are rituals set in the litany that are meant to break up the monotony for the children.
In the Jewish faith we see a strong bond within the family. Much of what was written in Leviticus is to strengthen the family. The weekly celebration of the Sabbath starts in the home. Harsh penalties were established for those who may cause threat to the bonds of family, because family was to be the corner stone of the Jewish nation. Gleaning was written into the laws to support those who had no one to farm. And the year of the Jubilee was established to free slaves, return land to the original owners, and forgive debts...this was to reset the clock every 50 years in order for ALL families to have a chance.
Families were not just mother, father and children but were grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins...and they supported each other.
Widows and orphans were to be supported by society...these were families at risk.
And strangers were welcomed into the family. The Sabbath was to include people on the road. The door was to be left open for Elijah to come in for the Seder as well as strangers. The family was the bedrock of hospitality to all.
And yet we use selected passages in Leviticus to exclude and condemn people. Tradition vs. love...this is the theme in Fiddler on the Roof. Many of us hold onto old laws that have become traditions instead of leaning towards love, or as Jesus said, "holding to the letter of the law while ignoring the spirit of the law."
We tend to take laws that were established when populations were low and at risk of being decimated*...in other words, passages that condemn sexual practices that would not result in babies and laws designed to give vulnerable children fathers to support them - like the stoning of women who lay with more than one man - and make them laws today, when populations are growing by leaps and bounds and paternity tests are easy. And as far as we know, no one has ever held to the law of the year of the Jubilee.
As we become more and more global, those of us of faith need to see the world as our family. Scientists says we all come from one mother. If we adhere to a Divine creating us all, then this still holds. We share common chromosomes. We are more alike than different. Maybe it is time to act like one giant family. We let traditions separate us instead of support us. We allow laws set in books of faith to condemn instead of showing us ways to love:
- Supporting one another
- Supporting the weak, the poor, the vulnerable
*There were also passages telling the Israelites to kill every man, woman, child, and farm animal when they conquered a people.