Every year, on the 15th of the Hebrew month of Nisan, Jews the world over gather with family and friends to celebrate Passover. Like all Jewish holidays, Passover is filled with centuries old traditions, special foods and commitment to heritage.
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It is relatively easy to follow many of the traditions of Passover. For example, the requirements for everything from how to clean your home in preparation of the holiday, what foods to eat, how to prepare them and even how to organize each day of the holiday are specific. Cleaning the house of food and things that have accumulated since last Passover is a great idea. It is an easy observance to adhere to. Not eating leavened bread is a bit harder, but the time frame is not so long that going without is going to be a severe hardship. Celebrating with friends and family in attendance, singing the songs we have sung for generations, remembering the Passovers of our childhood and creating memories for our children are all part of the celebration. That is the easy part.
What about the requirements of Passover that are not so easy to fulfill? Passover, the celebration of freedom, reminds us that none of us are free until everyone is free. How do we deal with hunger and starvation, war and brutality, hatred and injustice? What do we do when the problems are enormous and our own ability to solve them seems impossible? Do we give up, or do we go at the problem in a different manner?
At every Seder (Passover meal) participants recount the ten great plagues and the hardships they brought. Many families and communities, like ours, add our own personal and societal plagues to the recitation. Each year at our family Seder, we go around the table so each person can respond. Some concerns are so immense just the sheer mention of them brings sighs of despair. Other concerns may seem trivial to some but are monumental to the person posing them. The Passover message is that we must act to correct these problems. We must be an active participant in changing not only ourselves, but the communities in which we live. We must make a commitment to make a difference.
This year, Jews the world over will celebrate Passover and remember that freedom is not just freedom for us, but freedom for all. In this age of recrimination, war and hatred toward each other, we need to again commit ourselves to this goal. Holding another person in bondage whether it is because of their race, religion, gender, age or sexual orientation holds us in bondage as well. When each man and woman and child are free to pursue life then and only then can we all be free.
Chava Lee is a congregation member of Sukkat Shalom, a reform Jewish congregation.