Tag Archives: passover

My Passover questions this year

Last night I walked home listening to the Speaking of Faith interview with Avivah Zornberg about Passover. Much of the Passover observance centers around asking questions, Avivah Zornberg’s interview left me with 3 questions for this year:

  1. Exodus says that the Passover meal should be eaten in haste. There is a sense of urgency here. Do we have the same sense of urgency about today’s struggles for liberation?
  2. Exodus is a process. It begins with the first acts of revolt of the Hebrew midwives. It continues and Moses resists the exploitation when he is in Egypt, through the plagues, across the Red Sea, into the wilderness before the Israelites reach the promised land. Where are we in the process of liberation for this generation? What challenges does it face for us? What is our task at this stage?
  3. One of the key themes in the story is the hardness of Pharaoh’s heart. How have we hardened our own hearts? Whose suffering have we become indifferent to? To Iraqis? To Palestinians? To Israelis? To people who were formerly incarcerated? To the poor? To that family member who really gets on our nerves? How do we soften our hearts and avoid the pattern of Pharaoh?

I have thoughts about these questions, but no clear answers. Indeed, even to ask question 3 is a scary proposition, because when we open our heart we may find we are called to respond (and how to respond leads to even more questions). But still we must ask.

What happens when oppression is no longer bitter?

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.