March 29, 2023
We are one week away from Passover (Pesach in Hebrew). The Exodus from Egypt is perhaps the most formative experience in the history of the Jewish people. This story has been handed down l’dor v’dor, generation to generation, by our ancestors. It is the story of our bondage and ultimate freedom.
In Hebrew, the word for Egypt is Mitzrayim. The root of this word means narrow, constricted. In retelling the Passover story, we remember this place of constriction and that the outcome of the story is redemption, salvation. Each year we have a new chance at redemption.
During Passover we consider what it means to be free. We consider all who are not yet free and we think of the ways we ourselves are still in bondage. Indeed freedom is a continuous process.
These past few days have forced us to confront many of the ways we are living in narrow, constricted spaces where our own freedom, and the freedom of others is at risk.
Many of our children live in fear that they may be the next victims of a school shooting, like the one that happened on Monday in Nashville, Tennessee. May we all be free from this kind of terror.
Our Jewish community has been subjected to ongoing antisemitic harassment and bullying. This past week many Chico neighborhoods have again been blanketed with despicable antisemitic flyers. May we be free from this hate and vitrol. And may we be free from the fear of where these dramatic increases in antisemitism are leading.
Thousands are marching in Israel to maintain a free and independent judiciary that is so vital to maintaining a democratic government. May Israel be free from forces that threaten the ideals upon which it was founded.
As we prepare our homes for Passover, let’s make sure to prepare our minds and hearts too. Freedom is a precious gift. In our tradition we experience the freedom from the bondage under Pharaoh of Egypt as a miracle. Let us not take the many freedoms we have for granted. And let us be strengthened in our resolve to stand up to all the “pharaohs” that oppress, bully, and terrorize. Emma Lazarus reminds us that “Until we are all free, we are none of us free.”