Living a Jewish life includes doing “Jewish things”, infused with purpose, values and memories (i.e. “we were slaves in Egypt” and what that means from a practical and conceptual worldview). Passover, a microcosm of Jewish life, exists within a set of guidelines in preparation for the festival of redemption including the cleaning of Hametz and maintaining dietary constraints (some call this “spring cleaning”) in preparation for the Seder, a festive meal literally meaning “an order” (of things), accompanied by a guide or the Haggadah. Within this framework we remember, we sing, and we bless as we enter a conversation with our past — alongside our children — our future; the theme of our redemptive Passover conversation: עבדים היינו — “we were slaves.” Slavery vs. Freedom, duality in general, is reflective throughout our people’s existence. The book of Genesis begins with creating order out of chaos for “…the earth was unformed and void…” Gd declares boundaries by creating light and darkness, day and night, the heavens and earth, and so on.
The Passover Seder does just that, reminding us that within chaos we can produce order. Just as Genesis, so too the book of Exodus is a story about creation, of setting boundaries, of transformation through revelation: The Children of Israel transform to the Nation of Israel. It is precisely this act of transformation through revelation that the Jewish People seek to recall continuously year after year that “we were slaves in Egypt.” Creation of the world cannot be duplicated, but the transformation from slavery to freedom can be recalled, thereby urging us all to appreciate the duality of existence: yesterday we were slaves, today we are free.
The story of Exodus is simple and easy to understand, yet the journey of Exodus — as in life — is complex and full of surprises. It is the complexity of life that brings us meaning, empowering us to grow through the constant knowledge and grappling with — from where we came — so that we may know to where we are going.
Finally, this is about the past, the present, and our future. On Passover our children are charged with asking the 4 qushiyot, the 4 questions, anchored in: “Why is this night different from all other nights?” On this Passover seder I invite us to ask ourselves the fifth and the sixth questions: who are we and what are we doing here? We are members of a wondrous people facilitating an extraordinary conversation, a conversation that continues from time immemorial. In life there is chaos and there is order; Just as we experience the duality of, and transformation from, slavery to freedom, it is upon us to decide what kind of life we live. Let us proclaim: WE CHOOSE LIFE!
The best is yet to come. Wishing all a liberating and joyous Passover!