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March 22, 2013

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PAGE 10A HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, MARCH 22, 2013 By Gil Shefler NEW YORK (JTA)--It's rare that an Orthodox rabbi chooses to omit an important Jewish ritual in his holiday celebrations. But in the spring of 2000, RabbiYosefLipsker cleared his living room of furniture, set up three large dining tables and invited dozens of people toa special seder that included all the standard Passover observances--except for one. "When it comes to seders," everybo@ thinks of the four cups of wine drunk during the service," said Lipsker, a consultant at the Caron Treat- ment Center for Substance Abuse and Chemical Addic- tion in Reading, Pa. "But we said, 'Listen, we're going to - have you at the seder, but you're going to have four cups of grape juice instead.'" Lipsker's guests allwere re- covering alcoholics and drug addicts and their families, and his seder was devoid of wine. Lipsker is not the only rabbi organizing sober seders--a dry version of the standard Passover evening ritual. In the late 1990s, several Chabad rabbis across the country, unbeknownst to one othe?, were organizing sober seders geared toward recovering Jewish alocoholics. In a little more than a de- cade, the practice has spread far and wide. This year, sober seders will be held in Miami, Montreal, Philadelphia, De- troit, Los Angeles and London. Hundreds of recovering ad- Rabbi Yosef Lipsker dicts are expected to attend, raising a glass of grape juice in celebration not only of the liberation of the Jewish people from bondage in an- cient Egypt, but of their own sobriety. Participants in sober sed= ers say the absence of wine not only doesn't detract from their enjoyment of the event, but can even enhance it. They connect, the struggles of recovering from addiction to Passover's theme of breaking free from servitude. "It was great," said Ricky, a 56 -year-old recovering addict from Montreal, referring to his first sober seder. "I sat at a tablewith the rabbi'swife, kids and other addicts in recovery, and I felt great, like I had a real sense of belonging." , Ricky credits Rabbi Benya- min Bresinger, who with his wife runs a Chabad addiction clinic in Montreal, with saving his life. Hepoints to the 2008 seder as a life-altering event and continues to attend sober seders each yeak "Before and after the seder we" sit around and talk," he said. "Many of us know each others' stories by now. For the newcomer coming to the sober seder, there's a belonging. It's a celebration rather than a regular AA meeting." The sacramental consump- tion ofwine is commonplace in Judaism, used to mark the beginning of nearly every major holiday and the weekly Sabbath dinner. On seder night, tradition calls for the drinking of four glasses as a sign of liberation. Wine also figures in other seder-night rituals: Many Jews have the tradition of removing drops of wine from their cup for each of the plagues visited upon the Egyptians, and a cup of wine traditionally is set aside for Elijah. Naturally, the ubiquity of drink poses problems for al- coholics and addicts of other substances. "Jewish law says everyone has to drink wine during 1;he seder," says Rabbi Yisrael Pinson, who runs the Jewish Recovery Center in Detroit. "But for an alcoholic, it's a danger of death." Pinson cited "pikuach nef- esh," the Jewish principle that saving a life takes precedence over other religious strictures, in skipping the wine-drinking in Jewish rituals. He noted that Rabbi Abraham Twer- Courtesy Rabbi Yosef Lipsker Rabbi Yosef Lipsker speaking to visitors at the Caron Treatment Center for Substance Abuse and Chemical Addiction in Reading, Pa. ski, a prominent psychiatrist specializing in addiction, sanctions abstinence for Jewish addicts as a life-saving measure. Pinson also hosts a sober' seder. "We ask people who at- tend {he seder, 'What is your personal story of freedom? How did you break free from the shackles of addiction?'" Pinson said. ('Obviously, we read the Haggadah. But we :also talkaboutwherewe are in life. It's fresh on their minds. They feel the wounds." For Greg, 24, from New York, seders used to be an opportunity to binge. "Every Pesach, by the third Chad Gadyah we were singing it backwards," he told JTA. The son of a haredi Or- thodox rabbi, Greg's family moved around a lot when he was growing Up, The first time he got drunk was on Purim at age 10. Itwas a sign of things to come. By the time Greg met Lipsker in his early 20s, he had become addicted to painkillers and cocaine. With the rabbi's help~ Greg said 1~ managed to overcome his demons. "For the first time in 23 years, I could be at a seder, feel real liberation and not be finished by the end of it," he said of his first sober seder with Lipsker. Greg's life is now back on track. He has a job working in finance in Manhattan and says he has found value in his Jew- ish identity. On weekends, he often drives out to see Lipsker, who lives a-two-hour drive away. He said Lipsker is saving him a seat at this year's seder. ,p By Sean Savage In millions of Jewish homes across the world each Pass- over, a special cup of wine is poured and the door is opened for Elijah the prophet. But how did this tradition start? Who is the prophet Eli- jah and how can modern Jews relate to this Biblical figure? "Passover is the season of redemption and the-Prophet Elijah is seen as a redemptive figure in Judaism. The book of Malachi describes how Elijah will return and announce the coming of the Messiah and redeem his people," Dr. Marc Shapiro, who holds the Wein- berg Chair of Judaic Studies at the University of Scranton, told Indeed, Elijah's role in the Bible is often to encourage the Jewish people to dowhat's right, to steer away from false gods like the Phoenician Baal, and to obey Hashem. In later rabbinic literature such as the Aggadah and Babylonian Talmud, a more complete picture of Elijah emerges, including Elijah's role as someone who fights- injustice on behalf of God. For early rabbis, Elijah was also seen as someone who would visit communities and settle disputes of legal prob- lems. This may be how Elijah became associated with the Passover seder. "The real reason is be= cause there is a dispute in the Talmud about how many glasses of wine we drink at the seder--four or five. So weTeave the fifth cup on the table for Elijah. The think- ing is when the Elijah and the Messiah comes, he will solve this dispute for us," Shapiro said. But since Passover is a widely recognized Jewish holiday that is celebrated even by many less observant and secular Jews who normally do not have much attachment to Jewish tradition, they may not be aware of the important redemptive role Elijah plays 1st Choice -Iome Companion Services "Touching our Customer's fives one at a time" Best Prices Quality Services 555 Winderley Place Ste. 300 Maitland, FL. 32751 Call 321.594.3579 24 hrs./7 Days a Week www. l smartchoicehomecompanion@grnail.corn Caring for you in your home The Prophet Elijah, or the Talmudic dispute over the Passover seder. "Most Jews probably don't know the story of Elijah in the Bible,; all they probably know is that they pour a glass of wine and open their door for Elijah, that's it," Rabbi Laura Baum of Congregation Beth Wikimedia Commons Adam in Loveland, Ohio-- who is also the founding rabbi of OurJewishCommunity. org, an online progressive Jewish community--told, Therefore, in order to con- nect the story of Elijah to many modern Jews, Jewish leaders such as Baum have come up with creative new ways of bringing the story of Elijah to life. One of those new ways is to connect the mysterious and mythical figure of Elijahwith another - Santa Claus. "What I realized is that Elijah's role during Passover is very similar to Santa Claus's during Christmas," Baum said. "Elijah and Santa Claus have this theoretical journey around the world, visiting homes and having food and drinks left out for them." The story of Santa Claus is based on the legend of Saint Nicholas, a4th-century Greek Christian Bishop liv- ing in modern-day Turkey who became famous for his generous gifts to the poor. Like Elijah in the Bible, Saint Nicholas, and his later incarnation as the modern- day Santa Claus, is seen as a fighter of iIljustice. "As a liberal Jew, Judaism is a lot of different things: community, connection to tradition, and an evolving framework of how we think about the world. But Judaism is also about having fun. So why not have fun with the story of Elijah and capitalize on his journey around the world?" Baum said. Baum expanded on this point in an article for the Huffington Post last year that described Elijah's role as a "Jewish Santa Claus." "Sometimes religion be- comes so serious and some- times ritual feels like it must be laden with meaning. That framework is valuable, some- times. Yet, there's also value in adding an intentional playful- ness to religion," she wrote. As a result, OurJewish- launched the website, which allows people from all over the world to follow Elijah on his journeys during the week of Passover. "We have been doing it for two-years now and people are really excited about it," Ba'um told, "One of the other cool things we did is fie had people from Jewish communities around the world take photos for us," she said. "We then placed a figure of Elijah there, to show him visiting these places. It is a great way to get kids involved in the holiday." On, Elijah is seen visiting places from all over the world, from Hawaii to Uganda to, of course, Israel. Baum said she plans to keep the site going again this year dur- ing Passover. She hopes that people can take away a posi- tive message about Elijah. "The story of Elijah encour- ages us to have a positive impact on the world,"Baum said. "We want to empower people to have a positive impact and there are mes- sages associated with Elijah like that."