Passover 5781

31 March 2021 – 18 Nisan 5781

Rabbi Aaron Goldstein

In our Ark Synagogue Hebrew classes we have been reviewing the Haggadah Hebrew…and Aramaic. It has been a source of joy to share the experience of those reading Aramaic – the language of our ancient ancestors – knowingly for the first time.

Whilst reading ‘Ha lachma anya – the bread of affliction,’ It was noted how the short passage encapsulated the essence of Peasch: Retelling the ancient narrative, thinking of those still in need, sharing food, and hoping for a better future.

One of the alternative readings urges us not to forget the serious matter of identifying those who are slaves today; and resolving to respond with through deed and tzedakah.

It would be so easy this year to focus only on ourselves. For much of this past year we have lived with restrictions that ‘imprisoned’ us in our homes. Decisions on our movement and means of social engagement were taken out of our hands; our world collapsed into an enclosed, narrow space, our mitzrayim: Egypt.

And yet for most of us, our ‘prison’ contained our own creature comforts and although this winter felt longer than usual, we had the knowledge that we would be getting out.

For too many this is not the case and so next to Ha lachma anya in our LJ Haggadah is the following text that reflects on contemporary slavery.

A question to ask before the traditional four questions: Why is this night no different from all other nights? Because on this night, millions of human beings around the world are still enslaved, or deprived of their rights, just as they are on all other nights. As we celebrate our freedom tonight, we remember them.

The children and adults who work in sweatshops of the developing world to produce the cheap clothes wealthier consumers are eager to buy.

The adults or children sold into a lifetime of slavery to pay a debt, or those captured in war by slave traders, even in the modern world.

The women and men from Eastern Europe and elsewhere traded into a life of degradation as sex slaves in the West.

The men, women and children forced to live in abject poverty by the lack of care by many nations’ leaders and insensitive citizens.

May the message of this Festival of Pesach be clear to us and all the world: we cannot celebrate it properly unless we commit ourselves to working for the liberty of all who are enslaved. The symbols on the Seder table, the unleavened bread we shall eat for the next seven days, are to remind us that there is still oppression in our world and that we are obliged to work to remove it from society.

Wishing everyone Chag Pesach Sameach – happiness through the festival of Pesach; and meaning through our tzedakah choices and ways we choose to respond in deed. May the world be just a little more redeemed next year.

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