Tonight marks the beginning of Passover, one of the oldest and most widely celebrated Jewish holidays. Timeless lessons are embodied in the book we read during the Passover Seder, called the haggadah, which have great resonance in this difficult time. The haggadah is built upon four commandments:
One: “In every generation we must see ourselves as though we were slaves in the Land of Egypt.…and because we have experienced the horrors of slavery, we are commanded: You shall not wrong a stranger or oppress the freedom seeker, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt (Exodus 22:20).
We have the great fortune of being descendants of refugees who survived persecution in their home countries and were given the opportunity to survive and prosper in America. This is why the plight of Dreamers, immigrants and refugees is so important to the Jewish people.
Two: “This year far too many among us are still slaves; next year they will be free people.” This is our Passover pledge.
The haggadah reminds us of what Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “until all of us are free, none of us are free.” We are commanded to not just remember the suffering of slaves, but to feel as though we, too, are slaves who are about to celebrate freedom. It is a poignant, annual reminder to empathize and work for the oppressed, the vulnerable and the victimized.
Three: “Let all who are hungry come and eat.”
There are no strangers at the Passover table—our brothers and sisters well-being is our responsibility. This is equally true in the greater world where we have a responsibility to make sure that all human beings are able to feed themselves and their families.
Four: “You shall teach it to your children in every generation.”
The rabbis knew that our values are nothing if they are not handed down to our children and grandchildren, so young people are an essential part of the Seder. It is only by reinforcing these principles that we continue to have a just and kind society.
I hope you have a deeply meaningful Seder surrounded by those you love. I wish all of you a Zissen Pesach and a Happy Easter to our Christian friends.