Jack and Annie's mentor on their journeys is a woman named Morgan LeFay, an enchantress from the legend of King Arthur. Last night, as I completed reading the sixteenth book of the series to my daughters, we found Jack and Annie asking Morgan whether they would be able to undertake any further adventures. Annie, in particular, expressed a desire to reconnect with all of the wonderful creatures and people she and Jack had already encountered on their journeys. Morgan offers the young adventurers poignant words of comfort when she says "The old stories are always with us. We are never alone."
Beginning on Monday night, we will join with family, friends, members of our congregations, invited guests, and people with whom we are only beginning to develop stronger relationships, to celebrate Pesach (Passover), the Jewish people's ancient commemoration of our Exodus from Egypt, marking our people's journey from slavery and terrible bondage to redemption and hopeful, new beginnings. The heart of the early days of the Pesach festival is the Seder - a special, home-based, ordered meal, filled with unique rituals and distinct symbolism.
But the true heart of Pesach isn't the ritual or the symbolism or the specific order of the Seder. The story of our ancestors that we tell and retell, coupled with the stories of our own personal lives and our struggles and trials, tribulations, and triumphs that we share at our tables form the true heart of our Pesach celebration. When we share stories of our own journey through life, recognizing the moments that enslave us, and the moments that redeem us, we continue to bring the narrative of Pesach to life, not only for ourselves, but for our children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren too.
When I was a college student at Washington University, I remember learning with Professor Naomi Lebowitz, a distinguished professor in literature and the humanities, who had been teaching at Wash. U. for decades. Yet every time Professor Lebowitz began a lecture, talking about a novel we were studying, her presentation seemed as fresh as the first time she had spoken about a particular book. So one day after class I asked Professor Lebowitz, "How after so many years are you still so passionate about these novels you are teaching?"
To this day, I still remember Professor Lebowitz's response. "These aren't novels Paul; they are old friends," she said. "Every time you pause to visit with an old friend, you have the opportunity to learn something new, or to see an idea in a new way."
As we prepare for our celebration of Pesach, as we continue to encounter painful circumstances in our personal lives and world, we find ourselves ever in need of stories that remind us of the possibility of healing, hope, and redemption. The Haggadah provides the foundation for our evenings' journey, a text that links us to our people's history, and that powerfully connects us with Jews and other gathered guests throughout the world.
But everyone who sits at our tables represents a living text as well, filled with their own stories. This Pesach, may be we privileged to share our own stories, and be even more privileged to share in hearing the stories of others who join us for a little bit of celebration, a little bit of hope, a small reminder of the power of redemption, and the power of sacred storytelling. May we be blessed to see that the old stories are always with us and as we journey through life together, may we remember, that we are never alone.