Tonight, Jews all over the world will sit around the dinner table and participate in a ritual thousands of years old. Two weeks ago, I joined a number of Jewish colleagues to question what is Jewish peoplehood. One answer is that it is the sharing of a collective memory. There is perhaps nothing as powerful to illustrate this as the Passover Seder (the ceremony). We have been doing this for a few thousand years and, hopefully will continue for a few thousand more.
Passover commemorates the exodus from Egypt of the Israelite slave nation. It is essentially a celebration of freedom. This year has been different. Many peoples, in the Middle East, are seeking their freedom. Some have paid for it with their lives, others have seen their homes and neighborhoods destroyed. What is so awesome is that many are trying to realize their freedom through non-violent methods.
Some will succeed, others won’t this time. When the Israelites were freed, it still took 40 years to create our peoplehood. Casting off the chains of our oppressors is one thing, but it is what we do with this freedom that defines who we really are.
At the Passover Table tonight, let us lift a fifth glass of wine for the people in the world who have freed themselves, or who are trying to free themselves. Let us offer up a prayer for their futures, that we may create a world where human rights and freedom are the only options.
And let us toast freedom for all – Le’chaim!
Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist (now available on Kindle) and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com/and on Twitter (#alonshalevsf).