Shabbat Evening Service
From the desk of Rabbi David Lyon
Passover is over. The story has been told, the rituals have been observed, and the hope for redemption has been renewed. Despite our rituals and observances, the world still looks the same, sadly. But, so did the world look to the Israelites soon after they left Egypt and entered the wilderness on their way to the Promised Land. Redemption alone doesn’t reveal the world we wish to see. It only summons us to enter a new place where we can make a difference.
Throughout history, our people has experienced more than one redemption from bondage. Relative to Jewish history, it wasn’t too long ago that many of our ancestors made their journey to America. In fact, millions made their way here in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. Many more made it throughout the 20th century. For them, America was the Promised Land.
Our Yiddishe relatives called America, the Goldene Medina, or the Golden Land. They believed the streets were paved with gold. In a way they were paved with gold; not literally, but they led many of our families to wealth beyond their wildest dreams in work and professions never permitted them anywhere else. The unfolding of the American dream meshed well with Jewish dreams, because our ambitions to achieve excellence as human beings devoted to timeless Torah values knew few boundaries here. Though earlier generations faced discrimination and restrictive quotas, most of us would grow up with very few encounters with anti-Semitism. We imagined ourselves to be like any other Americans whose dreams were limited only by our own ambitions. Redeemed, we fashioned a new world in partnership with other “huddled masses” that came to these shores to build a great nation.
Another important redemption came after WWII and the liberation of the concentration camps. Now the Promised Land wasn’t due west; it was in the Middle East. The land that would be Israel summoned its people from Nazi Europe, but also from an exile that began nearly 2000 years ago. From the time of the destruction of the Temple by the Romans in 70CE, Jews have longed and prayed for a return to the Land and the city of Jerusalem. The timing was inspired, and Zionism found its purpose in the rebuilding of the Land socially, culturally, religiously and politically. Since 1948, the Land has been replanted, repopulated and reimagined to meet the needs of many peoples. Redeemed, Israel remains a place of hope that reflects the meaning of Passover more than once each year; it testifies to the power of redemption every day.
Though our Passover tables tell only one story, the Seder doesn’t end without our commitment to the Jewish future where redemption from oppression and bondage must be experienced constantly. But, not only for us; our redemption would be incomplete if it didn’t include the needs of every human being who longs to be free, really free. If you didn’t address these matters this year, don’t return to the Seder table now; but make a promise that the Seder experience wasn’t lost on you. Fill the future with redemptive moments made possible by decisions and actions fueled by Jewish values to leave your corner of the world in better shape than you found it.
Next Passover, tell the familiar story but begin where you left off this year. It should be a place with less oppression and discrimination. It should be a place filled with greater meaning because you acted in faith that Passover isn’t only about the past; it’s mostly and always has been about the future that begins with today.