This Saturday is the first night of Passover.
Part of the tradition of the Passover observance is to eat bitter herbs during the Seder meal as a memory of the bitterness of slavery in Egypt.
But what happens when slavery is no longer bitter?
According to Chabad.org, that is exactly what happened in Egypt, “tradition tells us that 80% of the Jews said, ‘This is our land. How can we leave it?’ And they stayed and died there.” Bondage had lost it’s bitterness. They had become accustomed to slavery and injustice, and that led to their demise.
For those who were liberated, however, slavery was hard to swallow. During the Passover meal, Jews remember that bitterness even as they celebrate freedom.
Today, I find myself wondering if, like 80% of the Hebrew slaves and even more of the Egyptians, we too have become too accustomed to the bitterness of oppression.
Do we find continued racial inequality hard to swallow? Do we want to spit out the violence and injustice of the war in Iraq? Or have we stopped tasting the harshness of the fact that 17% of children in the U.S. live in poverty?
Rabbi Waskow teaches “every generation, Pharaoh; every generation, freedom.”
This Passover is a time to remember both Pharaoh and freedom. It is a time to taste and remember the bitterness of oppression, and to remember that bitterness is still with us.