Passover celebrates the Exodus of the Jews from Egypt. They were slaves. God promised liberation. Moses led them to freedom. That combination of acts and facts has been celebrated by Jewish families and communities through the ages.
But what does it mean to us today? We organize our households, buy tons of special foods, eat matzah, and spend some quality time with family. In what way do these activities speak to the themes of that story, of liberation from slavery?
Don’t get me wrong. I engage in and endorse all of these activities. I love Passover. I love the food, the family and the fun. To me, it’s the best holiday of the year, despite the hard work. We tell the story, we ask questions and we encourage the children. Great! But where is the theme of liberation? How do we pledge redemption?
Many of us believe in making our holidays relevant. We bring in discussions of important issues and interpretations that help elucidate and illustrate. Some of us add passages about the Shoah to help teach about persecution and freedom. Others add sections about the Refuseniks and the Jewish effort to liberate our people from Soviet constraints and confinements. Many celebrate women’s suffering and leadership with Miriam’s cup.
Freedom is a fragile thing. It requires constant protection and vigilance. Living in our society, we take it for granted. We can’t imagine life without it. But we must try to. The Haggadah itself tells us that we should tell the story as if we ourselves were there in Egypt.
So we try. But it’s hard.
This year, we have an added charge. We have children, sons imprisoned – young people in need of our redemptive prayers and acts. They’re called MIAs, soldiers missing in action. Boys who were willing to give their lives for their country, but their country abandoned them.
If Passover teaches us anything, it’s the obligation to follow God’s lead, to practise and participate in redemptive acts. Gilad Schalit must be on our and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s priority lists. Shas should not be sneaking in new settlements. Instead, they all should be first and foremost arguing everywhere for Gilad, for the MIAs. Everywhere and always. Redemption. Liberation. Those are our obligations.
This Passover, talk and teach about our heritage and history. Insert the issue of our kidnapped and missing soldiers. Feel their bondage. Inculcate the commitment to freedom. Motivate your children to fight for liberation. Feel the link to the parents of the MIAs. They are our people. Don’t abandon them. In this our season of liberation, keep them in your hearts.