As the winter finally gives way to spring, there are reminders all around us of this seasonal transition: the temperature rises, the days start to get a little longer, the flowers and the trees begin to bloom, and of course, the baseball season begins.
The Jewish calendar also provides us with a potent reminder of spring’s arrival, and that is the festival of Pesach, also known as Hag Ha-Aviv, the Spring Festival. The message of Passover is consistent with the spring season. Just as in nature spring marks a rebirth, so too does Passover recount the birth of the Jewish people. Our redemption from Egyptian bondage was the requisite for the formation of our ancestors into a nation.
Passover is also the holiday of freedom, Z’man Cheruteinu. While it is the story of our freedom from slavery, it is also a story about persecution and slavery to any people in any age. Passover is our constant reminder of our obligation to struggle for the freedom of all people.
And yes, we were slaves in Egypt. Yes, with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, we felt the presence of God in our midst. But beneath the Haggadah’s tale of deliverance is a Passover lesson for all to hear. It is a lesson about family, gathered again around a festive table. It is a lesson about faith in goodness, faith in each other. What an important lesson this is, especially this year during the primary campaign with the toxic speech, vilifying others because of religion and/or background, and the incitement to violence. We need to stand up and express our outrage at the unprecedented vitriol that is being spewed. We need to deepen our faith in each other and embrace humankind to help bring about a world of understanding and peace.
Let us look forward to spring, not backward on the winter which has past. Thus Passover is a time for us to contemplate the miracle of birth, of human life, of our struggle for freedom, of our deep faith and of familial ties to all of humanity. It is the holiday which emphasizes “the can-do spirit”. It teaches us that even in the most trying of times, we all have the ability to forge forward through rough terrain and look forward to days of hope and blessing.