As we Prepare for Pesach
March 19, 2021
Dear Holy Friends,
I hope this correspondence finds you doing well and in good health as we prepare for the upcoming Pesach holiday.
In the world of ritual studies, there is a concept that each aspect of religious life has a plethora of meanings, both official and personal.
This year, as we gather around our Seder tables, we will no doubt reference the official meanings of the holiday. We will retell the story of our ancestors’ exodus from Egypt. We will eat our festive meals. We will discuss the symbolism attached to each of the items on the Seder plate.
This year, however, we will also likely use the idea of freedom as a lens through which we view our experience of having navigated the pandemic over the last thirteen months, thus creating a new meaning. As the country distributes vaccines and as the world slowly, but steadily, re-opens, we will no doubt be positioned to reconsider what freedom and liberty truly mean.
We learn in Exodus 11:12 that when the Jews left Egypt, they asked for gifts from their oppressors using the Hebrew word Na, meaning “please.“ The Gemara, in Berachot 9a, uses the analogy of a prisoner preparing to be released to the outside world. It suggests that liberty, when eventually attained, needs to be accompanied by the concept of “please.” This is to say that our freedom must be relished and we should be humble and interact with our environment with courtesy, empathy, sympathy and concern.
Regardless of which meaning of freedom you ultimately choose to hold dear, may the freedom we all embrace be highlighted by our Pesach ritual and be buoyed by our sense of responsibility for our neighbors, obligation to our community, and care for all of God’s creation.
Rabbi Eric L. Wasser, EdD