“Passover affirms the great truth that liberty is the
inalienable right of every human being.”
I have always loved the Passover holiday, which begins tonight. Time for family and friends, too much food, seriousness and fun during the seder, and most of all, inspiring lessons about the fight for freedom and dignity for all people.
At the beginning of the Seder, we point to the matzah and say, “This is the lachma anya, the bread of poverty and oppression that our ancestors ate in the land of Egypt.” This is followed by an invitation, “Let all who are hungry come in and eat.”
Rabbi Jonathan Sacks (z”l) points out how strange this invitation is: “What hospitality is it,” he asks, “to offer the hungry the taste of suffering?” Matzah, says Rabbi Sacks, represents two things: It is the bread of slaves, the food of poverty. At the same time, it is the bread of freedom, eaten by the liberated Israelites as they left Egypt.
What transforms the bread of oppression into the bread of freedom? It is, says Rabbi Sacks, the ability to hear the cry of others and the willingness to share it with others. In Egypt, when silent slaves cried out for freedom, they began their transformation to a community of caring and justice. This was true in Egypt and it is still true today.
The lessons of Passover combine individual and social responsibility: Our people risked everything to be free and escaped from slavery. Generations later, we still are obligated to remember and recreate the flight from slavery and the fight for freedom. As we learn from discussing the Haggadah’s Four Children, the wise embrace our obligations to others, while the wicked separate themselves from repairing the world. We learn at the seder table that freedom is about service to others -- not freedom from responsibility.
Rabbi David Wolpe shares, “The famous Passover phrase, ‘Let my people go,’ is abbreviated. The full sentence is, ‘Let my people go that they may serve me.’ Here we see Isaiah Berlin’s famous distinction between being ‘liberated from’ and being ‘liberated to.’ To be liberated from oppression is the beginning of freedom, not its end or aim. True freedom is abundance of opportunity, not absence of obligation. A man in a desert alone is not free. Standing in a developed society with a thousand obligations but also a million possibilities, that is freedom.”
At the conclusion of the seder we proclaim, “Next year in Jerusalem.” This statement expresses our hope for a brighter future for the Jewish people and for a peaceful world of justice, belonging, and freedom for all. Amen.
From my family to yours -- Chag Pesach sameach (Happy Passover)...a ziessen Pesach (sweet Passover)…Chag kasher v’sameach (happy and kosher holiday)! Most of all, enjoy being with your family and friends (hopefully) in person!
Shabbat shalom and enjoy your seder.