By Rabbi Mark Melamut
Can you smell it in the air? Not the peanuts and cracker jacks, the freshly raked field or even the shouts of “play ball,” but the signs of the other Opening Day. The Opening Day that smells of matzah ball soup, which takes over the air like a thick San Francisco fog, and that covers us and most possible surfaces with matzah crumbs. The Opening Day which highlights the important of the Jewish questioning process by formalizing those four questions, along with sealing the lyrics and melody of dayenu, into our hearts and souls.
Pesach, or Passover, if you prefer, is our Opening Day. It is the day that opens a new season, and one that requires us to literally open the doors of our home to those who are hungry and to Elijah. It opens our memories, our hopes, and our hearts and minds. In short, Passover opens us up to the wonder and joy, and even to the tzurres and hardship of life, to which we can only say, “Play Ball!” In order to even get a hit though, we have to first stand in the batter’s box, to risk the chance of striking out, and to face the infinite field of possibilities before us.
The wisdom of the rabbis teaches us that “In every generation, each of us is to view ourselves as having personally escaped from Egypt.” Passover is not a spectator sport, to be enjoyed from the bleachers or the sidelines, or even from the radio or TV. Instead, each of us invited to participate in the action by pulling up to the table, by grabbing a comfy pillow on which to recline, by noshing on our symbolic foods, and by asking not only the four questions, but any questions that we have. In our family seder, before we sit down to begin, we take a few moments to ask everyone to write down any questions – silly, serious, wondrous, dangerous, marvelous – on multi-colored sticky notes. We place them all in a bowl and after we chant the four questions, we then delve into our own questions.
Opening Day, as defined by Wikipedia, is the day on which professional baseball leagues begin their regular season. For fans, Opening Day serves as a symbol of rebirth. I learned that writer, Thomas Boswell, in Why Time Begins on Opening Day, suggests that many feel that the occasion represents newness or a chance to forget last season, in that the 30 major league clubs and their millions of fans begin with 0–0 records. On this Opening Day, what are we open to? Can we imagine what it is like to personally experience freedom for the first time? Are we open to new things, emotions, perspectives, ideas, habits, customs or rituals? Are we open to moving on? Can we really begin again in our lives, as if our record is 0-0, or are we stuck in last season?
For this Opening Season, what else can I say, other than, “Play ball (and Happy Passover!)”