Who doesn’t feel bogged down at times by the weight of the world, by the weight of our lives and responsibilities, or by expectations of others? Illness and needs of family members drive us to give every available moment to them, and pain from loss can be crippling. Those focused on the plights of others, be they the poor or subjugated in our own nation or those seeking refuge, safety, and peace beyond our borders, are often overwhelmed by the enormity of these problems and unsure of what to do. Those hoping for stability in our own nation may be blindsided by the sort of behavior that has become accepted and rewarded in our public spaces. Many of us spend much of our lives in these narrow places, hoping for a way out.
Passover, the great pilgrimage festival that has finally come, is our redemption. We enter together into the narrative of a people enslaved in Egypt, and we all participate in the exercise of being brought by God to freedom. Mitzrayim, the Hebrew for Egypt, can be translated as “narrow places”—places where we feel crushed, pressured, or forced in particular directions. In celebrating Passover, we get to leave these spiritual-confinements, coming out with God’s help into spaciousness, openness, and freedom.
What is freedom to you? To me, it is finding peace within all of life’s demands. It is certainly not relinquishing my life’s responsibilities, nor my responsibilities to God or fellow human beings. It is knowing that when I engage in life’s grind, I can do so with intention and fullness. I am a divinely-endowed human being, and I, by my own decisions, can make a real difference in this world.
Jewish freedom is not about escaping service to others. We didn’t leave service to the egotistical Pharaoh to do whatever we wanted. We left service to Pharaoh to enter service to something higher: God and all that is holy. Passover’s freedom is not about overcoming the human condition; it is about diving in with fullness of mind, heart, and spirit.
May you have a sweetly meaningful Passover this year, from my family to yours.
Chag Pesach Sameiach.