Shabbat Shalom with a Heart Healthy Dose of Torah – 1st Day of Passover

Tonight, we embark on the annual journey through the story of our people and our story of freedom. As I recall the story of the exodus from Egypt, I hear the screams of slaves under the task master’s whips. I ache over the loss of lives and the human indignations slave masters imposed on the people they held as property. I anguish over the loss of lives of the Egyptian slave-masters, as they tried to defend their rights to hold slaves even against God. Over the course of the seder, we will commit ourselves to the cause of freedom.

We will remember the many times that the Torah reminds us to care for the stranger because we were strangers in the land of Egypt.

We will remember the four children who ask questions. The wise understands that the miracle of redemption is for everyone. The wicked son thinks only of his own wellbeing. The other two are impressionable and will behave as their elders – the wise or the wicked teach them to behave. Our future will depend on whose propaganda speaks loudest to them. Over the course of the Seder, we commit ourselves to educating the world by living more empathetically and compassionately. Every year, we experience this clarion call for justice at every stage of the human relationship.

At the Seder’s conclusion, despite all that we have said and shared, we go on about our business and wait til next year. Someone will answer the call. Someone will free the captives. Someone will make peace happen. Too often, I hear people say, “I’m too busy for that.” So it is that we still experience the pain and anguish of bigotry and elitism that plagues society. At Seder we will ask, “Why is this night different than all other nights?” The sad reality is that unless we rise from the table committed to look past our own comfort and privilege, unless we figure out that wielding power over another is slavery, unless we remember that dignity is an inalienable right, this night will be no different than any other night.

We will end the Seder with the words, “Next year in Jerusalem.” We are not suggesting that the seder would be more meaningful 8000 miles away. We are saying that we want to gather next year, at the same table, in a more peaceful world – Y’ru-shalayim – the vision of peace fulfilled.

Passover is supposed to be transformative. We begin reminding ourselves that we are slaves to Pharaoh. This story is not about our ancestors. The text does not read that our ancestors were slaves. Our Pharaoh is the insecurity that makes us feel that power is greater than empowerment. Our Pharaoh is the fear that makes us believe that we own God and can force our version of “God” on other people, discounting their human value if they disagree. Our Pharaoh is the anxiety that keeps us from engaging people in love and not hostility. Our Pharoah is our enslavement to things of worth over people of value.

That Passover begins on Shabbat should wake us up to the need to step back, rethink our direction and priorities. For the many who do provide blessings in this world – we need help and affirmation. The world cannot heal because some people pay attention – we must all return to the notion of agape love – loving each other if for no other reason than we are all human – all have baggage – all have burdens – but most importantly, all have gifts to share if we would only open doors and opportunities for people to feel safe and secure in sharing.

Adapted from Michael Walzer’s statement, “Standing on the parted shores (of the Exodus), we believe that wherever we go, it is Egypt. There is a better place; a promised land; that the winding way there passes through a lot of wildernesses. There is no way to get from here to there except by joining hands, marching together.” Tonight, we must rethink the fragility of our human condition and commit to reaffirming our common human DNA, strengthening the girders that support the bridge linking us – human to human. Put down the politics of power. Put down the fear of what we don’t know. Dispose of our need to win. Grab ahold of each other’s heart. Knit your soul with another’s. Take the leap of faith that brings us back into each other’s arms. In this season of freedom for Jews, holy renewal for Christians (Easter), and sacred introspection for Muslims (Ramadan) Let me be transformed into a vessel of love and a dispenser of dignity.

Shabbat Shalom.