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Cantor's Commentary - Passover                                        March 26, 2021 - 14 Nisan 5781

03/26/2021 10:05:25 AM


Freedom.  This word carries great meaning for so many people across so many cultures throughout the world.  It invokes our sense of basic human rights like self-determination, to be free from oppression, or the ability to decide what is right for our bodies.  Today, it is also a subject of controversy.  Must there be limits to freedom?  Where do we draw the line in our society and how do we enforce it?

It is not without a sense of irony that once again our Passover celebrations this year, we call in Hebrew z’man cheiruteinu, the time of our freedom, as we maintain our social distancing in our own homes, unable to gather with friends and family.  The connection between the holiday of Passover and freedom is obvious to anyone familiar with the story, but we might rightly say, why does our tradition teach us that the theme of freedom should be our central focus on Passover.  Shouldn’t it be the telling of the story?  As it says in the Haggadah, v’higadetah l’vincha?  And you shall tell your children of the Exodus from Egypt?  And the more we tell the story, the more we are to be praised?  But if that were true, if the story of the Exodus was the central focus of Passover, why does the Haggadah never mention Moses?  Why do we read the Haggadah at the seder instead of the book of Exodus?  Sure, we spill drops of wine when we mention each of the plagues, but where’s the story of the burning bush? When in the seder do we talk about the famous phrase that calls out from the Torah “Let My People Go”?  Why instead does the Haggadah seem to go on endlessly discussing this rabbi and that rabbi who says point to the matzah, it was really 250 plagues that they Israelites experienced in Egypt, or my seder lasted so long that when we finally finished it was time for morning prayers?

Passover is the beginning of the Jewish story – not the story of creation, not even the story of the Exodus.  When we tell our children about our story, who we are, where we come from, why all of these strange and bizarre things that we do so differently from the rest of the world, we begin by talking about our freedom, not just from the tyranny of Egypt, but what it means to be a free people.  We talk about why our freedom is so important to us.  When we became a free people, we became a holy people.  We became a people of laws, and morals.  We became a people of learning, and of strength and nobility.  We tell our kids look around you, everything that we are came from this, and now it belongs to you.  It’s not Rosh Hashanah that begins the Jewish People.  It’s not the story of Creation, these are part of our story, but not the beginning of it.  To the Jewish people, freedom is not about what we’re allowed or not allowed to do today.  To us, it’s not about social distancing, it’s not about being forced to wear masks, it’s not about gun laws, it’s not even about antisemitism.   It’s about the hard work, the devotion, the beauty, the ingenuity and the spirit of the Jewish people and the heritage that we have built together over three and a half thousand years.  That is what our freedom means to us.

And now, now we’re ready for the story.  Avadim Hayinu L’Pharoah b’mitzrayim… Once upon a  time we were slaves to the Pharoah in Egypt, but now we are free, and that is what allowed us to become who we are today.  And who are we today?  How did we get here?  That’s going to take a while.  Good thing we have all night.  I’m Cantor Jeremy and this has been a Beth Radom video d’var torah. Chag Kasher V’sam’each.


Mon, July 4 2022 5 Tammuz 5782