Being Fully Present – #BlogExodus Day 14

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by Rabbi Batsheva Appel

Many thanks to Rabbi Phyllis Sommer who started #BlogExodus which began on the first day of the Hebrew month Nisan and ends today. The writing prompt for today is being.

cross-posted on The Table

We are always on. Our digital devices are with us constantly. They come to the table with us , they come to bed with us,  and they even come to the bathroom with us.  We are connected with people around the world, with information about everything at our fingertips, with  books to read or email to check or games to fill the time. When we are without all of these connections and all of this information, even for the time that it takes a plane to take off or land, it feels strange to us.

But even as we are always on how often are we being fully present? As we spend every moment processing emails to someone at work or sending texts to a friend across the country, how often are we fully present with the people who are face to face with us, in this minute, in this space? Barbara Fredrickson’s essay,”Your Phone or Your Heart”, in the New York Times Sunday Review yesterday, speaks of the physical benefits of these real, face-to-face connections.  

Passover, which begins tonight, is all about being fully present. What makes a seder work is not the Haggadah we choose or who asks the Four Questions or the symbols on the seder plate or the tastes of the matzah. What makes the seder work is that we take the time to make the real connections, be present with each other and share the big stories and our personal stories. The story of the Exodus from Egypt as well as the story of how, as a child, I broke my mother’s toe as she was baking cheesecake for dessert for the seder. The story of God redeeming us so that we could worship God and the story of how a Jew by Choice fell in love with Judaism and the Jewish people at a Passover seder many years ago.

I know the power of the Passover seder, the power of being fully present as we make connections and share our stories because of the number of people who have spoken with me about conversion and their stories almost always begin “I was at a Passover seder…”

Rabbi Batsheva Appel is the senior rabbi of KAM Isaiah Israel Congregation in Chicago.

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One thought on “Being Fully Present – #BlogExodus Day 14

  1. I feel a little sad when I hear the assumption that people have their digital devices on all the time (and I agree that most of us do!). But I am old enough not to be in that category (my “dumb” cell phone mostly sits in my car, because when I first bought it, it was for emergency use only. like when I would get lost on the way to a shiva service). Although I use e-mail, Facebook, Skype, etc. (but not very much “etc.”), they are adjuncts to my real life, not in place of my real life. I am not techno-phobic, but I still can not imagine answering a phone while having lunch with another human being. Rabbi Appel’s story is lovely, and reminds me of many of my own Pesach experiences with people who are still here and those who are gone (and yes, Skype helped immeasurably last night to connect us to our son who lives in Tel Aviv). But we rabbis need to be in the forefront of not replacing the present with virtual reality. I saw some of that happening at the recent CCAR convention…so many colleagues hunched over their “machines”. A joyous Pesach to all of you!

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