For the first time in many years, my family is not hosting Passover seder, because we are blessed by friends who have invited us into their homes. Since I am not leading a seder this year, I will share some thoughts about Passover’s meaning for personal liberation with my readers.
I have long viewed Passover’s annually re-telling the story of the Jewish people’s escape from slavery in Egypt as the critical link which has bound the Jewish people together for well over 2000 years despite repeated attempts to annihilate us. These annual reminders that we were once slaves and now we are free serve us well by helping us cherish our hard fought freedoms and recall that they can be taken away at any time.
Liberation is both personal and communal and in order to free oneself, one must understand the nature of the enslavement one experiences. The Passover story starts in Egypt. As one author put it,
In Hebrew, Egypt is called Mitzrayim. According to the text on Jewish mysticism, the Zohar, the name is derived from m’tzarim, meaning “narrow straits” (mi, “from,” tzar, “narrow” or “tight”). When God took us out of Mitzrayim, He extricated us from the place of constricted opportunities, tight control, and narrow-mindedness, where movement was severely limited.
When my wife and I host a seder, I usually start by asking all of our guests to describe something which enslaves them, as well as their wishes for personal freedom in the coming year. Many guests have shared their challenges at work and school, with their health, and sometimes with society at large. This exercise often allows my friends and family to share sincere desires for how they will escape their personal Mitzrayim (narrow straits) in the coming year. Of course, this is easier said than done, but it is certainly impossible to gain personal freedom without identifying the personal or communal tight controls which enslave us.
As we enter this Passover season, my deepest wish is for disenfranchised people all over the world, who suffer from constricted opportunities, to recognize that the possibility for change is always present, and to remain ready for empowerment at both the personal and communal level, as one never knows when genuine cultural change will happen. Indeed, as little as one generation ago, the words gay marriage were rarely spoken and certainly not seriously contemplated as possible. Now, the concept is so culturally accepted that those who vilify it find themselves in the minority.
For me, that means that I appreciate each and every opportunity I have to help others gain their personal freedom by helping them achieve their civil rights to the fullest extent possible. While I know that my efforts are only one small part of the liberation struggle, I treasure the ongoing opportunity to play that role.
For more information on how I can help you accomplish effective, progressive systems change contact Jeff Spitzer-Resnick by visiting his website: Systems Change Consulting.