As we prepare to celebrate our great festival of Pesach, I want to wish you much joy – simcha and blessing – b’racha. The Seder is a wonderful opportunity, not only to gather with family and friends to enjoy a delicious meal, but a chance to explore what we might understand by “Freedom.”

To enable and guide us in this process, we have a narrative – the Haggadah and a specific order – the Seder. In the course of the meal, we can take the time to delve into this important topic. We can share our own understandings and interpretations of “Freedom,” along with the material we read. Essentially, the Haggadah starts with a discussion of various kinds of slavery, both physical and mental. It then introduces the idea that there is a Power beyond ourselves that makes it possible to escape the slavery of the self and, in recognizing this Higher Power we can focus our hearts to express our thanks and praise.

This process is summarized by the phrase: “We begin with the humiliation (of slavery) and end with praise (praising the Source of All Existence).” (Ask yourself the kinds of feelings you have when you have the need to express praise of something or someone. It’s actually exhilarating!) By all means share the English translation and if it’s all too lengthy, have people pick out the parts that “speak” to you.

This is holy time, a chance to escape the every-day; to focus on the beauty of our Tradition: on family love and the love of God. As we declare at the end of our Seder, “May God accept our act of devotion…” and bring about a time of universal emancipation from all that enslaves humanity.”

Wishing you the blessings of the Yom Tov!

Mordecai Miller
(Rabbi, Congregation Beth Ami)