Ben Shefter
Ben Shefter

The Partners of Bnei Brak

It happened that while Rabbis Eliezer, Joshua, Elazar ben Azaryah, Akiva and Tarfon were reclining at the seder table in Bnei Brak; 

Shifra, Rabbi Eliezer’s partner, was sleeping on the couch, exhausted from preparing for all the guests in her house. 

Jordan, Rabbi Joshua’s child, and Taylor, Rabbi Elazar ben Azaryah’s partner, were at the table. Taylor discussed their yetziah, coming out, story, feeling joy being free to discuss their lives and saddened by the many years of trauma that they had to endure within the Jewish community. Jordan is thinking about how families were supposed to share the Passover sacrifice, but he has to share his only parent with his friends and not him. He feels like the child is forced to be at the seder and wishing to have a parent that will listen to his questions.

Rachel, Rabbi Akiva’s wife, was at home taking care of her children. When the men were talking about Matzah, she was struggling to get their newborn to eat. When they sang Dayenu, she was bathing the children, hoping this would be the last thing before bedtime. Once she finished putting all the children to sleep, she only had 15 minutes to eat before midnight, the last time one can eat the afikoman. Once she finished eating, she sat alone and thought about what the Exodus must have been like when the whole family could be together.

Rabbi Tarfon did not have a partner, so as everyone talked about the Exodus experience, he felt trapped in a world that required him to marry. There were moments that he wondered why he was single, but he also realized that this too was a gift from God. Not everyone needs to be married to be Shalem, complete. 

As the sun was rising, Miriam, the mother of Moses, Rabbi Tarfon’s student, awoke to make sure her Moses was on time for his lessons. This Moses was the student who knocked on their door on the way to the study hall to remind them that it was time to engage the world. You had your time to live in a bubble; now it was time to reengage your responsibilities to God, the community, and most importantly, the people that made your bubble possible.

About the Author
Rabbi Ben Shefter is a graduate of Yeshivat Chovevei Torah Rabbinical school in Riverdale, New York and the Senior Jewish Educator at McMaster and Guelph Universities as part of Hillel Ontario. He grew up in Balitmore, Maryland, and attended the University of Maryland, where he received a BS in Material Science and Engineering while engaging in pluralistic programming through the organization Heart to Heart. Ben strives to make Judaism relevant and fun by finding activities or topics that people are interested in and showing the Jewish content within. He is a Seymour Siegel Scholar and the Educational Director for Heart to Heart.
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