Letting Go: How a song inspires all this Passover season

Not since the migration of Jews to Alaska has there been such hype over the “Frozen Chosen.” Yesterday I spent my afternoon with 4th and 5th families from our Martin J. Gottlieb Day School housed at the Jacksonville Jewish Center. As part of a musical “Seder Hop,” our group had the pleasure of singing through a dozen “Let it go” Frozen parodies created by synagogues, schools, a cappella groups, etc. over the past few weeks. They run the gamut from “Let us go” to “Let them go” to “Let it go” (it being chametz, leavened bread). All of the parodies are thoughtful and creative. While it’s a fairly straightforward lyrical twist in recognition of the Passover story (see Let my people go), it’s obvious that this song speaks to the Jewish people this time of year. Why has this song (and Frozen story), struck a chord? As the story in Exodus exclaims:

וַיֹּ֤אמֶר ה֙ אֶל־מֹשֶׁ֔ה בֹּ֖א אֶל־פַּרְעֹ֑ה וְאָמַרְתָּ֣ אֵלָ֗יו כֹּ֚ה אָמַ֣ר ה שַׁלַּ֥ח אֶת־עַמִּ֖י וְיַֽעַבְדֻֽנִי׃

“And God said to Moses, ‘Go unto Pharaoh and this you shall say to him, ‘Send out my people so that they may serve me.”

In the ancient story, Moses instructs Pharaoh to send the people out so that they may serve God. The Israelites never have the opportunity to proclaim “Let us go.” Where does that leave us? Are we trapped until we ourselves  proclaim, “Let us out!!?” Our Haggadah reminds us:

הָשַׁתָּא עַבְדֵי, לְשָׁנָה הַבָּאָה בְּנֵי חורִין

“This year we are still slaves. Next year, Free people!”

When we look at the Biblical narrative during our Seder, the stories plant us back in Pharaoh’s land. We are still slaves. We are stuck waiting for someone to send us out, to let us out, rather than shouting the demand to free ourselves. This Haggadah parable is meant to inspire us, not only to”Let us go,” but to “Let go” of our slave mentality. We must let go of haughty chametz in our lives. Let go of the enslavements that drive our daily actions. Let go of pain and sorrow. Let go of seemingly ageless grudges. Let go of inhibitions to do the right action over the popular one. Let go of narrow-mindedness and self-centered behavior. Let go of our fears to speak up and to show up when we see those enslaved at this very moment, thousands of years after someone came to our aid.

Shalom Postolsky (1893–1949), the ever-optimistic Zionist composer (who made Aliyah prior to the establishment of the State of Israel), wrote the now famous melody for Avadim Hayinu:

“We were slaves. Now we are free.” Freedom, in any form, doesn’t happen overnight. It is a trust fall.  There is a veil of uncertainty. We don’t know if this will be the year we are a free people, but we take a chance by ridding ourselves of slavery in all forms with the hope that we reach freedom one day. We don’t know what tomorrow holds, but over the course of this upcoming Passove and year:

May we begin to let go.

May we not hold ourselves back anymore.

For letting go, ourselves go,

we may meet Elijah at the door.

We should care, what we’re going to be,

in the year ahead.

We can inspire every day.

About the Author
Hazzan Jesse Holzer currently serves as the Cantor of the Jacksonville Jewish Center. Hazzan Holzer received his BA from New York University and completed a Masters Degree in Sacred Music and investment as a Hazzan from the H.L. Miller Cantorial Institute of the Jewish Theological Seminary in 2008 . He is an avid sports enthusiast, enjoys travel and playing piano, and is a devoted collector of Jewish music and rare prayer books.
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