Pesach - The Freedom of Children
Have a good Shabbat.
Pesach - The Freedom of Children
Each holiday in the Jewish calendar has a theme associated with it.
Pesach is the holiday of the emancipation of the Jewish people from
the bondage of Pharaoh and the Egyptians. As such, the theme of this
time period is Freedom, as it says in the prayers, “the time of our
Holidays in Judaism are much more than commemorative events of some
occurrence long, long ago. As the expression implies, “the time of
our freedom” is in the present, not in the past. We experience
freedom and we experience it now when we celebrate Pesach. Freedom is
in the air during this part of the year. Certainly, we see this in
nature with the onset of Spring. Life begins anew as it bursts out
of the darkness of winter. The redemption from Egypt confirms that
the Hebrew month, Nissan, is the time of self-determination, choice
and liberty, for all time.
It must be understood that the slavery in Egypt was not only physical
slavery, but that it was also the mental, psychological and spiritual
slavery as well. To live in Egypt was to be bound and stuck into a
mode of relentless and useless work that had little personal benefit.
It was the tedious and stifling laboring for another that created no
sense of self, or self-satisfaction.
In the short synopsis of the historical events surrounding the
Exodus, the Haggada mentions that the Jews were “few in number …
seventy individuals ” when they initially went down to Egypt under
Jacob and Joseph's leadership. The very next phrase the Haggada uses
to describe the Jewish people is that “ 'there he (Jacob) became a
nation' - which teaches that Israel was distinct in Egypt.” We see at
the outset, in the initial stages of our nationhood, that the Jewish
people were anything but wallflowers. “Jacob and Sons” were a clan of
just 70, yet somehow they stood out among the myriad of Egyptians.
From the very beginning of our existence we have had the uncanny
ability to be noticed in whatever crowd and society we are in.
Enslavement is not the natural order for anyone who craves the right
and need to express him or herself freely. It certainly is not the
case for the Jew, whose very existence at the outset seems to be
defined by an ability to be different, unique, and exceptional
wherever we go and however small we may be.
The Egyptians hoped that they could destroy our energy and vitality
through backbreaking labor, where the back is broken not only by the
difficulty of the tasks, but also by the sheer boredom and tedium of
the work. The slavery in Egypt was the attempt to crush the Jewish
spirit that thrives on growth and change. Egypt was Germany - cold,
dark, lifeless, and gray. It had no care for freedom, or of freedom's
closest companion - creativity. It is no accident that societies like
Egypt of 3500 years ago, Germany of 50 years ago, or Palestinians
today are so heartless and callous to children. The Egyptians wanted
to kill all the male babies, and shoved them into the buildings as
bricks for the pyramids that the Jews were forced to build; and it
was the Germans who wiped out 1.5 million Jewish children, or the
Palestinians who turn their children into walking bombs. Children,
without a care in the world, most represent freedom, vitality and
boundless creativity in life. Egypt, Germany and Palestinians, who
care less of freedom, creativity, and hence, of life itself, have no
qualms in destroying the greatest expressions of the endless love of
life and freedom that children represent.
It is therefore only fitting and appropriate that we answer this
death, darkness and confinement by having the children as the focal
point of the Haggada and of the Seder. We answer stifling boredom and
the insane need for inane order with the carefree laughter and
questioning curiosity of children who seek to explore and discover
life's endless opportunities. So on Seder night, let the voices of
Jewish children rise up to ask and sing. Allow the disorderly,
unfettered exuberance of children to lead us to the freedom and life
we all seek.