Today’s pressing realities call us to remember that liberty comes with obligation; liberation demands a clear destination
There we were, a mixed multitude at the Sea of Reeds. A cloud of dust grew behind us as we felt the chariots of Pharaoh’s army closing in on our camp. We had thought we were free. We thought that the signs and miracles had convinced Pharaoh to let us go. Even though we all had watched as destiny passed over us to give Pharaoh the final blow, there we were, bunched up against the beach, panicking, yelling at our leadership that we would be better off living as slaves than suffering the fate galloping towards us.
It was at that moment, as we demanded our leadership save us, and as our leaders petitioned the big boss to do something, that we learned a crucial lesson as a people, a lesson we need to hear now more than ever. The big boss, the liberator we’d praised only days earlier during our Seder, snaps back at Moses and says, “Why do you cry out to Me? Tell the Israelites to go forward.”
Whereas the Seder celebrates the moment of liberation, now more than ever we need a second seder to capture that directive: stop whining and start marching.
We are today, in the 21st century, living in near-messianic times. We have the capacity to produce enough food to feed each and every one of us. We can, if we wanted to, manufacture enough clothing to clothe all of us, to build enough homes for every person to sleep protected against the elements. Never in our history have we had the capacity to free everyone from wants and needs. Never in our history have we felt farther from the reality of slavery and bondage.
We are also living on the precipice of disaster. The planet is warming faster than our ecosystem can adapt. The same industrial economy that produced the fleshpots we’re accustomed to further degrades the conditions we depend upon to survive. The same economic structures that gave us freedom are growing more unequal every year, chaining more of us into cycles of debt and servitude.
Here we find ourselves today: free for the moment, but destruction roars towards us. Up against the rising waters, expecting the same market forces that enriched us with an outstretched arm to save us once more while we consume, while we complain, while we grumble against our leadership. Here we find ourselves, after celebrating the miracles in the Seder, lacking the marching orders to work our way through the wilderness to a better place, a Promised Land.
This is why my family will celebrate the seventh night seder. As my father-in-law reminded us at the Seder this year, Passover only begins on the first night. It is on the seventh night that we recall we were liberated for a purpose. Our march to the Promised Land depends on us moving our feet in the right direction, even when the going gets tough. It is on the eve of this seventh day that the Torah commands us to pause the mundane and take a moment to remember our obligations. To honor that commandment, my family will gather around our dinner table to remember that blessings are earned, that the universe bends towards justice only if there are enough of us committed to justice to do the bending.
While the Passover Seder is a powerful educational tool for reminding us of our past in bondage, the Seder at the Sea can remind us that our future is up to us. We can use our freedom to extract, to exploit, to explain that we didn’t have any other choice. Or we could use our freedom to demand from ourselves to cross the desert so that our children will have a chance at a better life in a land still capable of producing milk and honey.
We hope you, too, will join us in setting aside the time on the eve of the seventh day of Passover to hold a Seder at the Sea. To recall together that moment when we were told that it is up to us, when the odds seemed insurmountable and still we persisted. We must yet persist: in ending our reliance on fossil fuels; in beginning the hard work of decarbonizing our economies; in rolling back the culture of consumption that depletes our natural resources; in protecting humanity’s most vulnerable from the damage already done, and adapting our infrastructure to enable a healthier future for all. In sharing with our loved ones and our neighbors our commitment to linking arms with them and marching together across the unknown. As the latest IPCC report concluded, there is still hope. The waters are ready to part, waiting for us to step through. To go forward.