#mensch: Passover and Purpose

I am sharing my opening words at the Freedom Seder held at the Holot Detention Center. Photo by Activestills’ Oren Ziv.010

April 11, 2014

Thank you Liat and Mussa.
Thank you for your leadership and this opportunity.

Shalom and chag sameyach.

Thank you for inviting me and my family to share this moment of hope, this glimpse of possibility with you. I see in you my great-greatparents, who also sought the kindness of strangers in strange lands.

I represent the many Jews and Israelis who remember that we were slaves in Egypt, and were redeemed in order to create a better world for everyone.

God commands us to care for the stranger among us — not once or twice or even ten times. But dozens of times God commands us:

“Do not oppress the stranger for you know the soul of the stranger because you were strangers in the land of Egypt. (Ex 23:9)

God tells us again and again and again because it’s important and worthy. Because it is not easy. Because God needs us to know that the difficulty, and the fear, and the immensity of the task do not release us from that holy work.

There are many people all over this country — all over the world — working for your freedom. For your right to a fair, transparent and speedy legal process. Let me repeat that: a fair, transparent and speedy process. Two days ago a solidarity freedom seder was held outside the Israeli embassy in Washington, DC. Last night one was held in Tel Aviv. Please do not despair. You have come so far.

Who here has come to Israel thru Egypt? Raise your matzah of hope.

Who here has crossed the Sinai desert? Raise your matzah of hope.

Who here has fled your country because you are afraid and ran for your lives? Raise your matzah of hope.

Some governmental forces here may feel to you like the biblical Egyptian soldiers chasing you down..

This compound may feel like it threatens to consume you like Yam Suf, the Sea of Reeds.

But I am here to tell you that these gates will part and will become like shimmering waters to your left and to your right — leading to your redemption, to the freedom to recreate the world in partnership with all good people and with God.

May God soften the hearts of those who would oppress you, who would waste your human potential. And may God lift our eyes to all that promotes life, possibility and holiness.

Min hametzar karati ya, anani v’merchav ya

“From the confined place I call to God. From the expanse God answers me.”

For thousands of years Jews have concluded seders with the hope Next Year in Jerusalem.

Next Passover may we come together as free people who have been granted asylum in a just and compassionate Jerusalem, in a just and compassionate Israel.

L’shana ha’baa b’yerushalyim…

About the Author
Rabbi Susan Silverman is a writer, teacher, activist and Director of Second Nurture: Every Child Deserves a Family and a Community, that partners with synagogues in the US to gather in support of local foster families.
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