To me, the most powerful and poignant words in our Passover Seder are b’khol dor va-dor chayav ha-adam lir’ot et atzmo k’ilu hu yatza mi’mitzrayim – ‘In every generation, we must each consider ourselves as if we ourselves had come out of Egypt’. We are not only to tell the story of the Exodus from Egypt, we are to relive it, re-experience it, re-enact it. We taste the tears and sweat of hard labour, the bitterness of slavery, we drink the promises of redemption, and we savour on our lips the sweetness of freedom and liberation. British Jewish writer and political activist Israel Zangwill put it perfectly when he wrote, ‘On Pesach, Jews eat history’.
We do this to remember the past and to look forward to a future redemption but, most importantly, to make us aware of our responsibility in the present – to consider our behaviour towards the stranger, the oppressed, the enslaved, the refugee, to give us empathy for their plight. Daily we read about the plight of refugees fleeing persecution, longing for a safe, secure and peaceful existence. Rabbi Julie Schonfeld has written a beautiful piece entitled ‘The Fifth Child: The Refugee Child’. That child asks, ‘Who will keep me safe and when can I go home?’ I encourage you to read this, at
https://www.washingtonpost.com/religion/2022/04/14/passover-seder-prayer-ukrainian-refugees/, and perhaps you may wish to incorporate it into your Seder this year.
As we recite each plague, we take a drop of wine out of our glasses. Wine symbolises joy, and we acknowledge that our joy is diminished when others suffer. We can never be totally free until everyone is free. This Pesach, our thoughts are with the many people over the world who are not free, and we pledge to work towards a world redeemed.
We hope many of you will join us at our Communal Seder on Second Night Pesach, Thursday, April 6th, starting at 6:00pm. Please check the website for details, and also for information about the services we will be holding over the Pesach period.
May I wish you Chag Pesach Sameiach,
Rabbi Rachel Benjamin