On this eve of our annual celebration of this great Passover festival, I want to wish you and your family much joy and blessing. We are about to contemplate God’s miracle in rescuing our ancestors from their slavery to Pharaoh in the land of Egypt around thirty-five hundred years ago!
Pesach recalls this miraculous event, as mentioned in the book of Exodus, chapters 12 and following. Those passages in the Torah, recount the release of the Israelites from the physical bondage they had endured for so many years. Our present observance of that festival mirrors that very first observance of the Holiday. At that time, our ancestors were commanded to slaughter the special Paschal lamb and place its blood on the doorposts of their homes. This act would be a sign for their homes to be spared from the tenth, and final, plague. They then gathered as families, on the night of the fifteenth of Nisan, in their homes, to partake of that lamb as part of a feast. That night, they witnessed the miracle that took place when the Divine Creator slew the Egyptian first-born males.
This final act which followed nine other plagues finally convinced the Egyptian rulers to release their Hebrew slaves. At that time, God commanded them to observe the festival of Passover by gathering in a similar way on the first night to celebrate this miraculous event and observe the prohibition of any leavened food – especially bread – for seven days.
Today as we gather in our homes to sit down to our Seder meal, we are guided by a special book composed for the occasion – the Haggadah. Curiously, the Haggadah doesn’t simply narrate the story of the Exodus. Instead, it outlines, in order, fourteen specific steps as the way to recall that original miracle.
The underlying theme is, “We begin with humiliation and conclude with praise.”
I believe the essential key to our present observance of Pesach lies in contemplating ways in which its theme speaks to us, even in our own time, as we take our journey through the course of our individual lives and in our particular communities.
There are actually many ways in which we can accomplish this.
One such example is to realize that that original experience of our ancestors represents a foretaste of our hope that in the not-too-distant future, humanity – the world – will experience a great and ultimate redemption: one in which all peoples will seek to live out their lives in peace; understanding that the purpose of living, is to devote our lives in the pursuit of universal justice and kindness; one to another, one nation to another: That no individual or nation will ever “enslave” another; that we are all brothers and sisters having been created by One God.
Certainly, as we examine our current world situation and the levels of injustice, hatred and cruelty, what could be more important?
And so, may I wish for all of us, as we embark on this great observance; that our hopes and dreams for a grand future – as stated in so many of our prayers – be fulfilled; as we say, “speedily and in our days!”
b’Shalom: in Peace and in Love,