Rabbi Mordechai Kaplan said: “the conception of God as the redeemer of the oppressed has revolutionized the meaning and function of religion, and has placed at the service of ethical impulses ... The people of Israel, having been born with redemption on slavery, feels love for freedom and human dignity, and this is deeply ingrained in their consciousness.”…
“In every generation, each individual Jew must regard himself as if he / she had come out of Egypt”.
After Purim comes Passover. It is celebrated in March or April, on the eve of the 14th of Nisan. It is the oldest and one of the most celebrated.
It is one of the three pilgrimage festivals, Shalosh Regalim, together with Shavuot (Festival of the Weeks) and Sukkot (“Tabernacles” or “Cabins”). Jews have been celebrating this spring festival since our early days as a tribe. It started as a tribal and familiar festival, to become an event in the periods of the First and Second Temple. However, after the destruction of the Second Temple it went back to be a family event.
The main subject of Passover is freedom and the liberation from the slavery in Egypt. In Israel and for Progressive Judaism it lasts seven days, but it lasts eight days for the Orthodox and Conservative galut.
When we celebrate Passover we engage on the compromise of an endless fight for our own freedom, both individually and as a people, against the oppression held against any other human being. The paragraphs we recite from Exodus, as well as the symbols we use (wine and matzot) are precisely a legend, which constitute a methodology historically tested to teach and instruct the search for freedom for everyone, not only for Jews. For such a purpose we use the seder and the haggadah, as well as the magid and the four children asking
ma nishtanah, why is this night different from any other night?
We will find on our table three matzot, one on top of the other, covered by a serviette as well as a special plate for Passover: the seder plate. This plate has symbolic food which represents our spiritual journey from slavery to freedom. On the right side of the plate there is a lamb bone, symbolizing the Passover sacrifice, next to it charoset; on its left side a boiled egg, and next to it karpas. In the middle of the plate there are bitter herbs. We, as Progressive Jews, also set an orange, but other can be used such as cocoa from fair trade. Near the plate there is a bowl with salted water to soak the bitter herbs.
It is true to say that the Hebrews were the first to think of the idea of the fellow man/woman, not as a theory on ink, but as a compromise of word-action, thus, offering generously their humanitarian help even to the foreigner.
“When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.". (Leviticus 19,33-34).
This is precisely a proof of the most authentic proof of universal Fraternity which filled Jews from the beginning of their history, and that was put into practice throughout the generations, from Abraham to nowadays.
It is in Passover in particular when Freedom, Equality and Fraternity set amidst us.