Passover 5781 - Weekly Torah Portion
In just a short while we shall be sitting again at the Seder table. Again we expect it to be different after a year where everything we thought t be true about order has intensively changed. The ways of the world, its own order of things (its seder) was completely and utterly disrupted. What seemed to be known and well-defined was thoroughly disturbed and taught us an important lesson. When it comes to nature’s might, even a tiny virus may require a supreme effort to overcome. Last year we participated in small Seder nights, hosting only the immediate family, sometimes even much less than that. This year, thanks to a massive vaccination effort, it seems that the state of affairs here in Israel is rapidly improving.
For me the essence of the Seder lays in the words “In each and every generation a person is obliged to regard himself or herself as if he or she had come out of Egypt.” It is an event that occurred thousands of years ago and yet we recall it over and over again at each Seder night. This exit from Egypt is not about the physical exit from one place aiming for another. It is much more than that, it is the transition from slavery to freedom, from oppression to salvation. Such a unique occurrence that it requires each and every one of us to consider themselves an integral part of it. This celebration is an opportunity to spend time and give meaning to our personal freedom and salvation so that they do not become trivial.
The memory of “Bekhol Dor Va’Dor” (in each and every generation) is a memory of our origins, we came from slavery, as noted, “you shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt”. We are not allowed to forget the terrible injustice of inequality, of one person enslaving another, a person using temporal might against another human being. Time and time again Passover reminds us of those who are currently weak in our society and our responsibility to them. “You shall not oppress a stranger nor torment him, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.” “The stranger who resides with you shall be to you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt; I am the Lord your God.” “So show your love for the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.” How easy it is to forget times of weakness when we ourselves are free, independent and strong. Passover reminds us that while being proud of our accomplishments regarding our personal freedom, it is necessary to remember in this generation too, as if we were slaves just exiting our own Egypt. The memory will make us better people, with more understanding, responsibility and inclusive.
Many generations of Jews have not experienced true personal freedom. Certainly not that kind of freedom we enjoy today in our independent, democratic, and – yes, Jewish, state. It is not anything simple and certainly not fully or adequately resolved. There are pressures from both sides of the isle, each with their fears and anxieties. For us I suggest a balanced approach, celebrating and remembering. It is the memory that allows us to enjoy the festival in appreciation, it is also one the obliges us to a high degree of personal conduct.
Shavua Tov and wishes for Good Health – wishes for a Happy Passover to you and yours.
Reuven Marko, 27 March 2021, 15 Nisan, 5781