It is the morning before Pesach, and I’m sitting at Starbucks enjoying an Americano with a whole-grain bagel. The cleaning is all but finished at home and we’re mostly ready for the seder this evening. We may have a couple of friends joining us, but it will most likely just be my family of five.
I’ve thought about the theme of Pesach a lot this year: the redemption from Egypt; collectively as a people and individually from our own personal Pharaohs. There’s a couple of things I’d like to change this year in my struggle to return to the me I was before cancer struck our home, but that is not the forefront thought I have. Mostly I am thinking about an aspect of the communal nature of the chag.
The first seder was a hurried dinner in preparation for a flight from slavery. Since then it is a relaxed meal with friends and family that is filled with conversation, good food, and wine. As a convert I’ve only experienced a handful of them, but not one of them has ever been bad. Once the seder starts the worry and panic of getting ready for everything falls away and we begin the experience of our liberation.
This pulling together as a community isn’t the communal aspect I’ve been thinking of, rather it’s the other side of the coin that interests me. I’ve been thinking about how we Jews, in pulling together with each other, pull away from the Gentile world. We leave our jobs, our classes, and our recreational activities for a day or two and it is like a Jewish version of A Day Without a Mexican. I think about the silence of Jewishness in the greater parts of the world. I think about Egypt alone in its darkness while Judaism rests in the warm glow of her G~d.
Pesach is the most important holiday we have. Certainly, we celebrate the creation of the world on Rosh Hashanah and we receive forgiveness and hope for a better year on Yom Kippur, but Pesach is different. On Pesach we establish ourselves as G~d’s people and justify the year ahead of us. On Pesach we proclaim our commitment to G~d and reaffirm our identity as His children. On Pesach we don’t worry about what the world thinks of each of us, our people, and our Nation. On Pesach we spend a couple of days with our Creator and rest in His warmth and in our identity.
Each year we recite, “Next year in Jerusalem” as we express our hope in the coming of the mashiach, the ultimate redemption from Egypt he brings, and a world of peace. Who knows what the world has in store for us this year, but it doesn’t really matter as long as we sit at the seder. It doesn’t matter as long as we are eating and remembering what G~d has done for us throughout our generations. It doesn’t really matter what happens the year ahead of us as long as we remember, and therefore hope, for the completion of the work He began 3,000 years ago in Goshen, Egypt.
Chag Pesach Sameach