At the Bottom, but Climbing

March 30, 2012 by J-Wire
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At the beginning of the Pesach Seder, just after Kiddush, we eat “Karpas” – a small piece of vegetable dipped in salt water…writes Rabbi Michoel Gourarie.

Rabbi Michol Gourarie photo: Henry Benjamin

The standard explanation for this practice is that we do it to stir the curiosity of the children. When they observe us doing something unusual like eating vegetables before the meal, they begin asking questions, setting the tone for the night.

But there is another important lesson to be learned from this custom.  A vegetable grows in the ground. On the night of Pesach, the Karpas is transformed from something stuck in the dirt of the ground into a symbol of holiness. It receives a prominent place at the beautifully laid table with our best dishes and expensive wine. This simple vegetable becomes part of the royalty of the Seder.

We too sometimes feel low and impure. Like the vegetable, we sometimes experience the feeling of being ‘stuck in the ground’. But the power of the Pesach Seder is so strong that it plucks us out of the ground allowing us to engage with the holiness of this special night, giving us a place of prominence at the Seder table. No matter how low our point of origin is, we can rise to the occasion, tasting the internal and spiritual freedom embedded in the Seder experience.

There is just one condition. The vegetable becomes part of the Seder, but the pebbles and pieces of earth that surround it do not. A vegetable grows, but a stone remains the same. As long as we are committed to growth, we may join the Seder despite our lowly past.  But when we resist change and growth, we remain a pebble stuck on the ground.

Wishing everyone a Kosher and Happy Pesach

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