In the next 24 hours Jews all over the world will be sitting down to the traditional Seder dinner to celebrate Passover. The holiday is replete with traditions, prayers and special diets but what stands above all is that it celebrates freedom. When I sit down with my family I will forget my frustration that the traditional chopped liver has been replaced with a tasteless vegetarian paste made out of lentils in the interests of healthier eating. (The Irritable Liberal has to be pissed off about something).
Instead I will focus on the more universal aspects of freedom and justice that the delivery from slavery in ancient Egypt that is so revered by my people represents. Let it be noted that I consider myself Jewish, more by ethnic tribal ancestry than because I am a religious observant Jew. Not that I am lacking in faith or belief but rather because I have fashioned a pantheistic credo lessons learned from a variety of religions. In reading prayers from a variety of religions I have found a common thread, “Lord give me the faith/courage to help me get out of the shit I’m in.”
Passover is an exception for religious celebrations in that it celebrates liberation, something more commonly associated with political struggles. In the thankfully shortened Haggadah, (Passover prayer book) my family uses, we pause to read a passage that asks us to reflect on those who still live in slavery or who are oppressed. About 4,000 years after Exodus (give or take a millennium) we have made progress but the world still hasn’t got it quite right.
Freedom is the lifeblood of mankind but it is also fragile and often fleeting. It takes many forms and sadly oppression and injustice is still far too common. Let us take the story of the Jews liberation from slavery to remember that there are still too many people who are not free to pursue a better life and while no one person can effect significant change we all can.
The Bible tells us to do no less:
Though you pray at length, I will not listen.
Your hand are stained with crime – wash yourselves clean;
Put away your evil deeds from my sight.
Cease to do evil, learn to do good.
Devote yourselves to justice: aid the wronged.
Uphold the rights of the orphan; defend the cause of the widow.’
Spare me the sound of your hymns,
And let me not hear the music of your lutes.
But let justice roll down like water,
Righteousness like an everflowing stream.’