Passover 2023 Message
Dear NCJW Members and Friends,
Have you ever really thought about the opening lines of the Seder’s Magid—telling the story?
“This is the bread of affliction that our ancestors ate in the land of Egypt. Whoever is hungry, come eat with us! Whoever is needy come join our Seder! This year we are here, next year may we be in the land of Israel! This year we are slaves, next year may we be free!”
The more I think of these lines, the more I am convinced that these lines hold the key to not only the entire Seder and holiday, but also holds the secret to our happiness, the future, and at the risk of being too bold even world peace. Let me explain.
In these couple of lines, we are reminded of our past, of our duty to others, of our current state of existence and of what the future can hold. In these couple of lines, we are reminded of why we work so hard every day to make the world a better place and of how to make a better place happen. These couple of lines express exactly why we have to tell this story every year and why the story is so important to not only us but the world.
First, Matzah is the bread of affliction and we ate it in Egypt. We were slaves, we were poor and we could not afford better food. It reminds us that everyone at some time in history has been afflicted with hardship and had to sacrifice.
Today it may not be us, but others in our community. These lines remind us that we are not above those experiencing hardships now.
The fact that we were experiencing such hard times, did not make us bad people, just as those that are having difficulties now are not bad people, they too deserve respect and a way to preserve their dignity. We are reminded of this by the invite to all that are hungry to come and eat with us, to come join our Seder.
It is our duty to reach out to those, experiencing hardship and help. To help nourish them and invite them to join us. Whether it’s those experiencing homelessness, or the migrant, or a child leaving foster care, or a person being abused, or someone suffering from mental health issues, we must stand up and help. We must make them feel welcome, help them preserve dignity, impower them to help themselves and make sure they are seen as an equal part of society. We must work to find solutions for them when they cannot make their own voices heard.
When the Haggadah tells us “This year we are here, next year may we be in the land of Israel” for me, I think it is reminding us that we cannot stand still, we must always work towards the ideal goal of being in the land of Israel–the ultimate coming of the Messiah and the best place possible, in a state of peace and happiness.
In putting this line right after our call to action, I think the message is that through our hard work to have not only compassion for those less fortunate but also to help repair the world and include those struggling, we are able to elevate all people’s lives from where we are today to that ultimate existence. When we do this we enhance and better our own lives too. We have so much to learn from everyone we come in contact with and through this process we will realize that ultimate goal.
Finally, the lines remind us, “This year we are slaves, next year may we be free!” For me this is a warning not to be fooled. Even though we are not experiencing affliction today, even though life may be good, we are not truly free. We are still slaves—to our jobs, to society or to other modern-day oppressions. With antisemitism on the rise, it is clear we as a people still must stand up, for ourselves and for others, even when life seems comfortable. We must work towards freedom every day for all.
After these words, the Seder than proceeds to recount the story of our exodus from Egypt, from slavery to freedom, from lack of belief to belief and all the bumps in the road that we as a people have faced. So you can see how for me these simple words is a map of how we should think about the story. What we should try to ween from our past to understand our present and the key to the future. It is a map of how to find happiness and for me it is through helping others.
When I think of Passover this way, I smile, because I think of NCJW and all we have done this year and will do next year to make the world a better place. I think of all the people we have touched, all the people who we have empowered, respected and helped preserve their own dignity. I think of all the bills we have worked hard to pass to better the lives of women, children and families. I think of how much more we can do and will do. I think of working side by side with all of you and how we make a little difference in this world. I think about how our work is so important and in my heart not only am I proud, but I sincerely know we are bringing everyone closer to being in Israel next year, to being free!
Thank you all for standing up and doing your part to make the world a better place.
As you sit down to your Seder table, and you say those opening words of the story, I hope you think about those lines a little differently, smile and remember all you do every day. I hope you are proud to be part of NCJW and all the good we do and will do in the future.
I wish each of you and your families a happy Passover, or if you celebrate a different holiday at this time a year, a wonderful and meaningful Easter or Ramadan.
NCJW Colorado Section