What Passover Can Mean

Monday, April 18th, 2011, Written by jackrosenberger

It is again that time of year when Jews all over the world gather around dinner tables of many sizes to recount the story of the Exodus:  the story of the Israelites’ journey from Egypt into the desert where they wondered for over 40 years to get to the Promised Land.  To many people, especially my teenage patients, this ritual is merely an endurance test.  Can we survive the stories we’ve heard a million times to get to eat…..and we don’t even get bread?  What is it with this matzoh?  For too many young people, the seder can be a grueling test of survival, the meaning of which is:  when do we get to eat?

I would like to offer a differing view point.  I believe that the story of the Israelites can be everyone’s story.

How so, you ask?

In this way: it is the story of the human movement from slavery to freedom. And that is everyone’s story in some way.

“Isn’t this what everyone does?”

The Hebrew word for Egypt means literally “the narrow place.”  Thus, the place of bondage – the place of no freedom to move – is a place of slavery.  I suspect we all have these places in our lives:  whether we are slaves to work, chemicals, harmful relationships or a “cool” dedication to a meaningless life with little-to-no value.

It is my belief that life lived in this way IS slavery.  We might not be forced to make bricks, but we certainly are not our own masters and directors of our fates. But many people are convinced that since the surface looks good, the emptiness they feel just comes along with the territory. So they compromise and put on a happy face; after all, isn’t this what everyone does?

A new kind of freedom

To that question, I would answer, “NO!”  The Exodus story and the mystery of being truly alive calls us to freedom. That freedom is from all the things I have already mentioned or perhaps some other kind of tyranny which we are afraid to admit even to ourselves.  Thus, the call to freedom, as the Deuternomic writer would say, is issued to us TODAY.  Today we are called to a new kind of freedom.

Is freedom free?  Of course not.  Ask any soldier and they will tell you that freedom always has a price.  For us this Passover, perhaps the price of freedom is a new level of honesty–with ourselves or others.  Perhaps it is the courage to confront old habits that do not work and trying new things.  Perhaps it might mean a very real and profound change of lifestyle:  giving up the comforts of a great salary for work that for us has more meaning.

Confront your reality, find your freedom

Whatever the price might be, the Exodus story calls us to confront the reality of our own slavery and ask ourselves, “What am I getting for these chains?”  If we approach Passover with this mindset this year, perhaps we are positioned actually to hear the story.  Perhaps for the first time, this Exodus can be OUR Exodus.  In this way, the movement from slavery to freedom will be brand new for us, and indeed as new as it was for the Israelites of old.

Some cynics might argue that such freedom cannot exist.  But we don’t know till we try.

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