“I am not free if I am taking away someone else’s freedom, just as surely as I am not free when freedom is taken away from me. The oppressed and the oppressor alike are robbed of their humanity.” —Nelson Mandela
Tonight is the first night of Passover. It is the Jewish holiday celebrating the exodus of the Jews from Egypt. I was not brought up very observant of religious holidays but Passover has always been one of my most favorite celebrations. Throughout the years my Haggadah (the book that is read during the Seder) has changed and morphed into something deeply meaningful for me. It now includes all people trying to escape oppression and find freedom. The following is the opening of my homemade Haggadah.
In this the northern hemisphere, Passover coincides with the beginning of spring: a time for renewal, rethinking, rebirth. We throw open the windows of our houses, and we sweep away winter’s grit and dust. The story of Passover is a story of liberation and new beginnings: what better time to rethink our own liberation than now, as snow melts and new green appears? Think about where we continue to feel enslaved in our own lives. May this Passover spring give us the insight and courage to create ourselves anew.
Good evening, and welcome to our Interfaith celebration of Passover —a holiday that rejoices in freedom, family and the opportunities for renewal that come with the onset of spring. The booklet we’ll use to guide us through our Passover Seder, which means order and refers to the special order of tonight’s ritual banquet, is called a Haggadah. Haggadah means the telling in Hebrew, and highlights one of our main tasks this evening: telling the story of how the Israelite slaves were freed from bondage thousands of years ago. However, my true hope is that it also ignites meaningful conversation so please feel free to chime in and interrupt the storytelling.
As we retell the Israelites’ story, we’ll be reliving their struggle to overcome adversity and oppression. But we’ll also consider the struggle of many in our modern age who face similar adversity. And we, who enjoy basic freedoms, might still find in the Israelites’ story an allegory of the struggle for spiritual freedom, where we strive to let go of the negativity or bad habits that make us feel emotionally or psychologically enslaved.
We are all familiar with suffering from oppression imposed by others: racism, misogyny, income inequality, homophobia, etc. Right now, we are given an opportunity to look deep inside and free ourselves from our own oppression, from our own self-limiting beliefs and self-imposed judgements. We are capable of great change and I am choosing to look upon this quarantine as an opportunity to create love for myself and all others.