Editorial: Happy Passover

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Editorial: Happy Passover

Passover began this week and runs until April 13. According to a Pew Foundation study, 70 percent of American Jews participate in a Seder, making it the most popular holiday Jews observe.

It is a social holiday that brings families, friends and strangers to the table to partake in a night of storytelling and food. Two of the mitzvoth are mentioned in the Torah: telling the story of the emancipation and eating matzah. Three others were introduced by the sages, and call for drinking four cups of wine, reclining and eating bitter herbs. These mitzvoth represent ways for individuals to achieve freedom.

As we sit down to 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 sweat and 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 lands.

On Passover, let us also remember our relatives who took huge risks, and crossed oceans 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, Peabody, 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 during the holiday, leavened dough, or chametz, rises and swells and symbolizes pride and boastfulness. Matzah, which we eat during Passover, isn’t allowed to rise and symbolizes humility – a necessary trait required in order to leave our own personal “Egypt.”

Whether you’re online or sitting with friends and family at a Seder this year, Passover presents an opportunity to ponder the opportunities and gifts that come with our existence. There are many Passover themes that invite reflection, such as freedom, slavery and humility. If we meditate on these matters individually, we can break free – at least for a moment – of some of the beliefs that have been holding us back from evolving as individuals and contributing to make the world a more just place.

We must find a way to move beyond the anger and separation that threatens our democracy. The Seder cannot heal all of the wounds but it is a beginning – like every dawn that greets us each day. Let us welcome this holiday of introspection with gratitude and lack of judgment, and focus on how we can repair ourselves and our society. These concepts are hardly new – Jews have been contemplating them since they received the Torah. But each Seder allows us to greet them anew each spring.

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 ancestors 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 self-sacrificing and strong people who left their own particular form of bondage. They deserve to be remembered. Our prosperity was built on their struggle.

Happy Passover. Θ

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