Letter from Rabbi Ross

Rabbi Michael RossFrom the Rabbi’s new holiday column in the Hudson Hub: 

I want to wish everyone a joyful, liberating Passover. Below is my Passover column. I hope to see many of you at our Community Seder or at Hillel’s seder. Chag Same’ach, gut yontiv.

In our Passover Seder, Jews read in their storytelling, that “in every generation, we are obligated to see ourselves as leaving oppression/slavery.” I would like to map out four routes or paths towards freedom for each of us to consider this spring. The Kabbalistic mystics often look at life through the lens of the “Four Worlds” of reality — the physical, the emotional, the intellectual and finally, at the level of the soul, the spiritual.

Exercise – A Physical Path of Freedom

How am I doing physically?

Where am I limited by my body’s ailments, or weaknesses? How can I find wholeness, balance, or holiness in my physical, embodied daily life? The winter limited some of my physical activity. I didn’t exercise quite as much as I wanted to or needed to.

About a month ago, I restarted a swimming program that I had left by the wayside 16 years ago. It took several weeks to scrape the rust off my technique and to slowly build up a bit of aerobic capacity. But now I am delighting in this reclaimed physical exercise. I am reconnecting to my breath, along with my sense of strength and wellness.

As spring blooms around us, how can each of us find a sense of liberation and holiness in our bodies?

Opening Hearts – An Emotional Path of Freedom

Can I awaken to love this spring?

During the holiday of Passover, traditional Jews study the Biblical book “Song of Songs.” This text talks about the courtship and arousal of two young lovers as they frolic in the fields of Jerusalem.

How closed-hearted, or open-hearted have I been this winter? What can I do to open my heart to both myself, and to my relationships with others? How am I taking in the story of others?

The work of building relationships is never-ending and endlessly rewarding. May I spend more time listening in my relationships this spring. May my heart continue to open.

May my relationship with the divine, be renewed by this desire for compassion and love.

Seeking Justice – An Intellectual Path of Freedom

The Passover story of liberation in the face of oppression is one that focuses me on social justice. The Jews in Northeast Ohio have been knocked sideways by the recent outbursts of antisemitism, racism and white nationalism after the Pittsburgh shooting.

And we have been equally greeted by loving support from our non-Jewish neighbors in the face of these expressions of hatred. Now our Muslim colleagues are facing this same type of hatred in light of Christchurch.

We know the anguish of feeling vulnerable and scared  in our houses of worship. We know that the loving support of our neighbors can transform that anxiety, and allow us to reflect on our needs.

This past week I attended the monthly Jewish-Muslim Dialogue session sponsored by Temple Israel of Akron and hosted by the Islamic Society of Akron and Kent. We explored the theme of listening to the story of the other.

May we each be dedicated to “loving the neighbor” this spring. May we find the desire to hear the stories of people we do not know. May we rediscover that every human being is “created in the image of God.”

Humility – A Spiritual Path of Freedom 

As Jews prepare for Passover, we not only do exhaustive spring cleaning, we cleanse our homes of all products that have yeast: bread, cereal, pasta, cookies, crackers, etc. During the eight-day holiday, many of us will refrain from including these products in our diet. The spiritual goal of this cleaning is to transform our homes and strip away all yeast. As we are cleaning, we are also spiritually stripping away our arrogance or pride. The hope is that by the time the cleaning is done, when it’s time to eat the seder meal, we will feel lighter, aware of who we truly are.

In the ethical and spiritual teachings of Mussar, there are teachings about humility and the shadow side of humility: false humility. The teaching is that we should take up exactly the right amount of space, not too much and not too little.

As we seek holiness in our lives this spring, true humility is invaluable.

May we each find the path to freedom and liberation this spring. May we celebrate the holiness of the other, in our relationships. May we be deeply nourished by our communities.

Upcoming TBS Gatherings:

Sat. 4/20, 5:30 p.m: TBS Community Seder. RSVPS needed.

Fri.  4/26, 7:45 p.m: Passover Shabbat. Meditation at 7:00 p.m. We will study parts of the Song of Songs!

SAVE THE DATE: Sat. 5/4, 9:30 a.m: Torah Study at Kent State Hillel (see below for details in the May 4 Memorial)

Upcoming Kent State Hillel Gatherings:

Fri. 4/19, 5:30 p.m: Hillel at Kent State Community Seder! TBS members are invited. RSVPS needed.

Fri.  5/3, 6 pm: End-of Year Shabbat Service and Shabbat Dinner (7 p.m.) RSVPS needed.

SAVE THE DATE: Sat. 5/4, noon Kent State’s May 4 Memorial with Rabbi Ross and other speakers. We will meet for Torah Study at 9:30 at Hillel. Followed by a bagel brunch at 11:15. We will walk over to the memorial together.