Passover is here. Passover gives us an opportunity to be with our family and all the people we love. Passover celebrates the rebirth of springtime and the renewal of our hopes and dreams as individuals and as a people. Perhaps more than anything else, Passover allows us to examine our lives, looking through the lens of Jewish time and Jewish history.
We are at the key story-telling occasion on our Jewish calendar. On Passover, we tell the story of the exodus from Egypt through the Haggadah, literally the “telling.” The book of Exodus tells us: ‘You will tell your child…”—specifically about our people’s journey from slavery to freedom. The exodus is a shared event in our Jewish past. It gives us history and connection with Jews across time and space. The narrative provides us with a key piece of our collective Jewish identity. But the narrative carries a universal message for us. It informs us that we are responsible not only for our people, but, indeed, for all people to enjoy the freedom and respect that every person on this earth deserves.
The Passover story is a story that we can tell and understand in our own way each and every year. That is our obligation on this holiday. Each of us is commanded to see ourselves as if we, personally, left Egypt. Each of us is to put ourselves in our ancestors’ shoes, to look at our own lives and find our own experiences, journeys, freedom, and instances of redemption. It is important for us to reflect on these themes and consider how these concepts speak to our own lives, in real terms. What enslaves us today? What entrapments do we flee? Toward what freedom do we travel? What has impacted our personal relationships? How can we help in Tikkun Olam, repairing this world?
Passover is, indeed, a time of action: making a Seder, preparing foods, going to synagogue, but it is also a time of reflection wherein we bring the story to life through our own lives. Let the story of Passover not only help us to reflect on the themes of our lives, but let the force of the holiday encourage us to act and to bring our own lives closer to the ideal of the Promised Land, and find redemption for us and for others within our own days.
Rabbi Jeffery Bennett