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2023 Pesach Message from Rabbi Silberstein

Dear Friends,


When we speak about Pesach as Zman Cheiruteinu, the season of our freedom, what is the freedom that we are talking about? I might assume that freedom means getting to do what I want when I want.  However, the same Torah that tells us of the exodus from Egypt, also gives us numerous commandments prohibiting certain behaviors and mandating others.  The very holiday that celebration our freedom from Egyptian servitude brings with it many restrictions on what we can eat, and prescriptions of how to celebrate.  The freedom we celebrate on Pesach is not the freedom to act as we please.


When we were enslaved in Egypt, the Egyptians did what oppressors always do those they wish to subjugate and enslave.  They sought to strip us of our identity, our history and our dignity, and to make us live in fear, and to believe that we were somehow less human and deserving than our Egyptian masters.  This is why on Pesach, the Sages mandated that we recline and drink wine, like the aristocrats of their day, to show ourselves that we are as good as anyone.  On Pesach we show that we are free by telling a story of liberation that connects us to our people’s history and identity, something that oppressed people are not allowed to do.  We throw open our doors to call for G-d’s justice, showing that we are not afraid.


It is easy, living in a nation that celebrates the word “freedom”, to imagine that we are free, and certainly we enjoy many freedoms that generations of our ancestors did not.  At the same time, we are all exposed to forces that we should be afraid of being attacked just for being Jews, that we should feel ashamed of our distinctiveness, or, more subtly, that we must sacrifice aspects of our distinct Jewish identity and history in order to get ahead and earn the good will of our non-Jewish neighbors.  The battle for freedom from the forces that would rob us of our dignity and our identity as Jews did not end when we left Egypt.  It is an ongoing struggle.


When we gather around the seder table, we are not just remembering the liberation of the past; we are engaging in an act of ongoing liberation.  Through our songs and our stories and even our food, we are fighting back against forces that tell us to hide our Jewishness, to assimilate and adopt the values and customs of the majority culture.  May this Pesach help us usher in the day when all Jews, and all oppressed people, experience the freedom to be themselves.


Chag Kasher v’Sameach!


Rabbi Garth Silberstein

Tue, June 6 2023 17 Sivan 5783