Living a Jewish life includes living within a particular framework of values and memories (i.e. we were slaves in Egypt), rituals and experiences. Passover, a microcosm of Jewish life, requires a set of guidelines in preparation for the Festival including the cleaning of “Hametz,” dietary constraints, and of course the ‘Seder,’ an order accompanied by a guide, the ‘Haggadah.’
Within this framework we remember stories, sing songs and chant blessings all reflective of Passover’s primary theme – עבדים היינו – “we were slaves.” Slavery vs. Freedom, duality in general, is reflective throughout our existence. The book of Genesis begins with creating order out of chaos for “…the earth was unformed and void…” so God decides on boundaries and creates: light and darkness, day and night, the heaven and earth, and so on.
The Passover Seder does just that – it reminds us of the order of things. Like Genesis, the book of Exodus is a story about creation, of setting boundaries – of transformation through revelation, the Children of Israel become the Nation of Israel. It is precisely this act of transformation through revelation that the Jewish People seek to recall, continuously, year after year, that “we were slaves in Egypt.” Creation of the world cannot be duplicated, but the transformation from slavery to freedom can be recalled, urging us to appreciate the duality of existence: yesterday we were slaves, today we are free.
The story of Exodus is simple and easy to understand, yet the journey of Exodus — as in life — is complex and full of surprises. It is the complexity of life that brings us meaning, allowing us to grow spiritually and intellectually constantly knowing from where we came, so that we may know to where we are going.
Educating our children is the greatest cause of our time. At Jewish National Fund USA’s Alexander Muss High School in Israel (AMHSI) we do education. Our students explore living history leading to a transformation and discovery of self within our shared narrative. It is as a result of this journey that we empower our youth to forge their link to the chain of Jewish continuity, finding their place around the table in the telling of our story. Just as “in every generation one must see him/herself as having exited Egypt” so too every generation is charged with teaching the next, bridging past-present and future.
In Egypt we were slaves, today we are free – what will tomorrow bring? That’s on us to decide! My bitrei zuzei (two cents).
Wishing all a Happy and Transformative Pesach!