I have always loved to invite new faces to our home Passover Seder. This included non Jewish friends or new acquaintances I met in the course of daily life. I practiced this hospitality for two reasons. I found that the Seder caused astonishment among my guests, since there was nothing comparable to it in their religious traditions. The second reason flowed out of the first. My non-Jewish guests constantly asked questions because everything is so new to them.
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This curiosity engaged me and the Jews around the table in doing ‘hagadah’-telling the story. Telling the story is a central mitzvah of the Seder. Simply put, our guests can inspire us to fulfill the Mitzvah of Passover.
My vision for Panim Hadashot-New Faces is inspired by these encounters flowing out of hospitality. Guests bring a new set of eyes to the rituals we do repeatedly. The new encounter opens doors for guests, but reopens doors for the host. I see the Sedarim of Shabbat, the ritual meals of Friday night, Shabbat lunch, and Havdallah like the Seder. The ritual order and variations of familial and communal custom should arouse curiosity in guests, and enable us to engage in self reflection. We can find new in the old and old in the new.
In the Buddhist tradition there is a notion of Beginner’s Mind which I understand to mean looking at familiar things in a new way. Hospitality helps us to go back to beginner’s mind and dig deeper for the meaning of familiar things.
The great annual recurrence of Passover is nearly upon us. Take the opportunity this season to invite non-Jewish guests to your Seder, or simply some folks you have recently met to your Seder, or bring them to our Panim Hadashot Seder on March 30th. Find joy in their astonishment and wisdom in their questions.
Shalom, Rabbi Dov Gartenberg
Convener and Director of Panim Hadashot-New Faces