Now that the stage is set before the Seder, the dishes are out, the food is cooking, I can think about the meaning of freedom. After we were no longer slaves in Egypt, we were given the commandments to shape our behaviour as individuals and as a community. During the Seder, we celebrate the biblical event that gave us our freedom from slavery. We even act out the story. What are we each free to do?
We can acknowledge God or ignore God or be skeptical about the existence of God. We can honour our parents, or focus only on their faults, or ignore them. We can feel responsible for our family and community, curse their neediness, or feel incapable of making any difference. The poor will always be with us.
I am also free to figure out what I can do to help. How can I remedy social inequality in our society? How does my community address this inequality? I would like to be creative in addressing the basic needs of all of us: food security, housing, and an accepting atmosphere where we can each grow and develop at our pace. Now that we are free, we can choose to pursue justice. Let’s work together as a community to create and develop greater food security, appropriate, safe housing, and a comfortable environment where every person matters to each of us. After all, we are blessed with freedom to choose. Keep your head down, don’t be such an idealist.
Our ancestors in Egypt did not think that a change in their circumstances was possible even after Moses assured them that God would help. We continued to complain during our journey through the wilderness to Israel. We even complained when we were in the land of Israel as we learned to govern ourselves. Today, both in the Diaspora and Israel – along with Jewish and other communal organizations – our governments work on the disparities in our society. But, there are still many people living in our communities whose basic needs are unaddressed. Not everyone gets the same blessings.
The Passover story can help us get out of our own narrow places. The word for Egypt in Hebrew (mitzrayim) has its root in the word for narrow or tight (tzar). The narrow place for the Jews in ancient Egypt was their slavery: the slave-masters were the decision-makers. The tight place that I am in now is hesitating to realize the potential for my freedom. It’s Passover, a time to change the world.