There are so many stories of people around the world who are struggling for freedom today. In some places it is a struggle for civil rights and human dignity. Such is the effort to settle the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In Africa, 31 countries, most notably Nigeria and Uganda, have outlawed homosexuality. In many places the struggle for freedom has become a life and death matter—in Syria, Egypt, Venezuela and now Ukraine.
As we sit down to celebrate our Festival of Freedom this year, a celebration that has given rise to many national liberation struggles throughout history, we are reminded that we have an obligation to make our story universal. As we say in the opening welcome to our Seder, “let all who are hungry come and eat, let all who are in need come celebrate Passover.”
We rehearse the story of “our suffering, our misery and our oppression,” so that we can better understand the nuances of deprivation and degradation a people can undergo. We relive our exodus from Egypt each year so that we can better empathize with those around us who are suffering and oppressed today. More than any other command, the Torah tells us to reach out to the stranger “because you were strangers in the land of Egypt and you know the heart of the stranger.”
In addititon to the many organized Jewish responses to help our brothers and sisters in Ukraine, I was very moved by the effort of a Ukrainian Jew to mobilize Israeli medical aid for all Ukrainian protestors who have been injured in their struggle for freedom. In the spirit of the Jewish teaching, “Do not stand idly by the blood of your fellow,” Tzvi Arieli set up a Facebook page, Israel Help Maidan Wounded. Together with the State of Israel the Jewish people can proudly act in the world to promote freedom universally.
This is exactly what it means to be a Jew in the world today—to take the values of our heritage and to act on them in real life. Consider how you and your familiy might make your Seder come alive this year!
With warm wishes for a sweet and liberating Pesah,
Hag Pesah Kasher ve-sameah!
Rabbi Ron Aigen