What does it mean to be a people? Does it mean to come from the same land, to eat the same food, or to pray the same way? Nowadays, Jews are spread all over the world and our traditions have become just as varied. So, what truly unites us? It is our common identity, history, heritage, and above all else, the obligation we share to one another and to the world. To be a part of our people means to share a collective responsibility.
Our Passover celebration understandably focuses on the end of the story—our freedom, redemption, and peoplehood. But even during this happy celebration, we are commanded, “Remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt” (Deuteronomy 15:15). We cannot appreciate freedom without remembering the years of slavery and suffering. However, how can we celebrate our freedom without empathizing with those who have not yet experienced their redemption? What does a celebration of freedom even look like at this time of difficulty?
We must use the freedom given to us to spread freedom and alleviate others’ struggles. Especially in this uncertain time when so many are oppressed by the coronavirus and the accompanying anxiety and feelings of isolation, it is our responsibility to do whatever we can to create hope and joy. While most are not able to fight the pandemic directly, we can still make a huge difference. We can donate to food banks and shelters to provide for the less fortunate in our community. We can invite people virtually into our homes for seders so they don’t celebrate alone. We can reach out to our friends and family as well as strangers to make sure that they are staying healthy spiritually, as well as in body.
Yes, Passover is a time for celebration—it is a time to be thankful for the strength and resilience of our people. But we can never forget what we endured to get where we are today. So, this holiday, as you are in your own captive space, remember Egypt. Remember the hardships we endured as a people and recall our jubilation when we were set free. Then, ask yourself: how will you fulfill your obligation of bringing that freedom to the world?
From the current Grand Aleph Shaliach and International Sh'licha.
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