Passover begins tonight. It is the most commonly observed of the Jewish holidays. Being a home-based celebration, it presents an opportunity for family and friends – across generations – to get together. The Seder – the rituals, symbols, storytelling, conversations, and food – offers something for everyone.
The primary theme of Passover revolves around the Israelites’ exodus from Egypt. Pharaoh had made them slaves and turned their daily existence into a living hell. It took acts of God – through Moses and plagues – for them to be released and return to their Promised Land.
I often have contemplated the concept of slavery. It can be experienced in many forms…psychological, physical, and emotional. Regardless of the degrees of torture, the reality and feelings of captivity have lifelong impacts. What is it like to be ruled over…to be held back…to be treated as worthless? What happens to a person’s psyche when one is made to feel irrelevant, insignificant, inconsequential? What does it do to one’s spirit when faith and hope slowly ebb away? How does it feel, day after day, to believe that this is just the way things are and there’s no way out? What is it like to look your captor in the face and feel utterly powerless?
The concept of slavery includes various acts of oppression, servitude, repression, suppression, and bondage. People who are oppressed feel acute domination, persecution, subjugation, and harassment by others. We all know, especially these days, that many people are or feel imprisoned. And yet, we are surrounded by positive examples of modern day uprisings. The downtrodden have had enough and are fighting back.
To experience true freedom, one must want it and fight for it. The enslaved must find the courage, endurance, determination, and fortitude to break their chains and seize it. Then comes the responsibilities of fighting for those who cannot help themselves and punishing the captors and abusers. But ultimately, the world must be rebuilt with an eye towards fairness and equality for all.
On this Passover eve, with each cup of wine, I will toast the victims. I will celebrate the brave few who rise to the challenge. I will rejoice with the understanding and faith that good can – and will – triumph over evil.
Whether you’re at Passover Seders or are observing Easter, I hope you too will raise a cup and vow to rise up.