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March 28, 2014  RSS feed
Rabbinically Speaking

Text: T T T

Freedom has to be won in every generation

By Rabbi JACOB LUSKI Congregation Bnai Israel, St. Petersburg

Historically, the spirit of Passover has played a glorious role in the struggle for human dignity.

The eternal quest for human freedom has received sustenance and encouragement from the story of liberation from Egyptian slavery several millennia ago. For us Jews, Passover marks our birth as a free people, and its exalted theme – freedom – has marked the development of the modern world.

The idea that freedom must be won in every generation and by each individual is an integral part of our daily prayers. Every person, in every generation, must regard himself or herself as having been personally freed from Egypt. This identification of the Jewish religion with the struggle for freedom has given our people the strength, the power, and the will to live.

Like an unfinished play, the night of the Exodus continues through the centuries, perpetually seeking actors to relive it and to grasp its essential meanings. The key idea expressed in the Passover story is the certainty of freedom. With the Exodus, a new age has dawned for humanity: redemption from misery and oppression. If the Exodus had not taken place, the destiny of humanity would have followed another course. Neither my father, nor I, nor my children would be free. We would still remain slaves forever! Passover expresses the universal and indivisible quality of liberty, of freedom.

In our Jewish tradition, the deliverance from Egypt is important because it paved the way to Sinai, that is to Israel ‘s voluntary acceptance of its unique, special and distinctive mission. Passover, as told in the Haggada, recounts how the people of Israel moved from slavery to freedom, from darkness into light, and from the ignorance and shame of idolatry to the consciousness and glory of its higher calling.

Pesah has two basic messages whose poignancy and significance remain true in modern times. The first is that deliverance from bondage and suffering, and the decision to do away with ignorance, lies primarily in our hands. The second message is that deliverance is continual: for all generations of Israel for all time. The echo of the Exodus resonates forever.

We have triumphed over degradation and suffering. We learn from our history and gain the confidence to carry on our struggle against our old and our present enemies. And we have achieved a major victory: the restoration of our beloved State of Israel .

Today, Passover’s legacy sustains the Jewish people in its continued struggles. Passover makes us one with the heroic people of the state of Israel, and united in our shared fight against terrorism, the Iranian nuclear threat, and the rising tide of a new, ugly global anti-Semitism.

The democratic struggle for human dignity for all people expresses the spirit of Passover. The idea that underlies the feast of Passover is noble and humane: freedom, liberty and decency for all G-d’s children!

With best wishes for a Hag Kasher V’sameah!

The Rabbinically Speaking column is provided as a public service by the Jewish Press in cooperation with the Pinellas County Board of Rabbis. Columns are assigned, on a rotating basis by the board.

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