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Resources for Pesach 2024

At the practical level, the hallmark of the holiday is the Seder, in which Jews discuss the liberation and its meaning for today. Additionally, Jews also traditionally refrain from any leavened bread for the eight days of Passover, as a way of reliving the story of the liberated slaves, who fled Egypt so quickly that their bread didn’t have a chance to rise.  That means getting every crumb of bread out the house, closet, car and more. It's sort of a spiritual spring-cleaning. For folks who want to get down and dirty (er… clean), here’s an accessible guide to cleaning for Pesach. For folks who are looking for resources for their Seder tables, here are some Quotes and Questions to Spark Conversation, as well as some of the supplements I'm drawing from this year:

At the conceptual level, Passover (Pesach in Hebrew) is the celebration of the liberation of an oppressed people in ancient Egypt. It is a story that is at once deeply particular, for it is in this story that the freed slaves of Egypt became a nation, and tremendously universal, because throughout history, oppressed people have found their hope and their courage in this story. 

Mordecai Anielewicz lead the Warsaw Ghetto uprising on the eve of Passover in 1943, and J. Severino Croatto, one of the Latin American liberation theologians wrote, “I can celebrate the Passover only because the Exodus event occurred, but in this "memory" I also recall the other moments of the people's liberation… but any "memory" has meaning for me only if I am in some way involved in a present-day  process of liberation. Oppressors cannot celebrate the Passover; it would be a falsehood.”

At the spiritual level, Pesach calls us to many things, but perhaps chief among them is the leap of courage necessary to liberate ourselves, whether our bondage is political, spiritual or of a different type altogether. According to the Biblical tale, the Israelites were “greatly frightened” as they stood at the Red Sea, with the Egyptian army hot on their trail. “Stand by,” says Moses, and witness the deliverance which God will work for you today!”  Then, lo and behold! The sea is divided and the people walk across it on dry ground. But the Bible is where the Jewish story begins, not where it ends. The rabbis of the Talmud ask “…and if they went upon ‘dry ground,’ then why does it say ‘into the midst of the sea’? That’s to teach that the sea was divided only after Israel stepped into it and the waters had reached their noses – only then did it become dry land.” 

It took human courage, as well as a little supernatural magic for the liberation from Egypt and for every liberation since then.  Liberation is hard and damn scary – the water is often up to your nose before anything happens. But only those who have the guts to make that leap can ever really be liberated, whether their oppressors or internal or external. 

So this Pesach, I hope we all have the courage to rid our homes and our souls of everything that is holding us back, and jump towards our liberation, whatever form it may take. 


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