Passover begins Friday night with the first Seder. As we sit down and retell the story of the Exodus from slavery, American Jews will have an opportunity to reflect on just how different our lives are from the Jews who emerged from Egypt. That generation had never known freedom.
Conversely, a majority of American Jews find themselves in a unique historical position. Our generation is perhaps the most privileged and prosperous ever to live in this country. Much of our good fortune can be traced to the sacrifices our parents, grandparents and great-grandparents made. Many were immigrants or the children of Jews who made their way from Europe and Arab countries to the U.S. They sought freedom and democracy, and civil liberties that were never afforded to Jews in their former countries.
On Passover, let us also remember our relatives who took risks, and traveled far to find freedom and a better life for their children. This generation stands on their shoulders and enjoys a world our ancestors would not recognize. Many of our relatives settled in cold- water flats in cities like Boston, Chelsea, Revere, Malden, Lynn, Salem, Beverly, Lawrence and Lowell. They toiled in factories, and in small businesses to ensure that their children would receive an education, learn a profession and embrace – and protect – the freedoms offered in the Constitution.
Hasidic masters explain that leavened dough, or chametz, rises and swells and symbolizes pride and boastfulness. Matzah, which we eat during Passover, symbolizes humility –
a necessary trait required in order to leave our own personal “Egypt.”
On this holiday, let us embrace freedom, and gratitude. Let us ponder just how much we have been given, and consider ways to honor our relatives who set out on a path that many of us are still walking along. Let us leave our own personal Egypt, and along the way, visualize these kind and strong people who left their own form of slavery. They deserve to be remembered. Our prosperity was built on their struggle.