Seder in the Himalayas
In the land of exiled Tibetans yearning for freedom, a seder gathers Jews and non-Jews from around the globe to mark Passover.
Azriel's Tent of Light is a place where Jews who have been opened up by other spiritual traditions can taste some of the deeper teachings of their own. In addition to the seder, it features several weeks of classes and lectures about Jewish spirituality, this year led by Mimi Feigelson, a wonderful storyteller and teacher from Jerusalem, and me. Helping us out from Capetown is "Uncle Steve" Barnett, who uses rhythm, clapping, and drumming to bring together people from different cultures. That helps a lot because our Jewish "puja" (as the Hindus call any ceremony) has been attracting interest not only from Jews but from a representative sample of the entire planet.
I have a long connection with this idea of doing a seder here. Back in 1990, Rabbi Zalman Schachter had proposed teaching the Tibetans how to do a seder. (The word means "order," and a seder is a meal with a definite order of eating and speaking, all designed to recall the wondrous liberation of Hebrew slaves from Egypt long ago.)
Back then, the Dalai Lama had asked for Jewish secrets of survival during our long years of exile from our homeland. The seder was one answer. The rabbis created the seder as we know it after the Second Temple was destroyed. They centered it on commandments in the Torah, but they also borrowed the form of the Greek Symposium, a special meal or banquet, such as the one described in Plato's "Symposium."