The Brevard Jewish Community
Passover is the most popular holiday in the Jewish calendar. Both religious and secular Jews celebrate its eternal message.
It began as one of the three agricultural festivals in which every Jewish man would bring a sacrifice at the Temple. After the destruction of the Temple in 70 AD the synagogue took the place of the Temple and prayer the place of animal sacrifice, the festival slowly merged from a Palestinian centered holiday to one to be celebrated by each Jewish family in the Diaspora, in exile. And it grew from a simple holiday dinner, which is what Jesus celebrated in the Last Supper, to a formal home service, the Seder, in which the meal is in the middle of the service. The Seder gave birth to the Haggadah which is the prayer book and songbook of the Seder. Any of you coming to our Seder on April 10th will see for themselves the evolution of this wonderful holiday.
Passover has a universal meaning. It is not at all surprising that President Obama celebrated a Seder each year in the White House. For African Americans during their two hundred thirty years of imprisonment under slavery the meaning of Passover was the same as it was for the Hebrew slaves in Egypt. Remember the African American Spiritual “When Israel was in Egypt’s Land…Let my People. “It meant freedom from bondage; it meant independence of a nation; it meant the opportunity to worship their God in peace in their chosen way. It meant the coming of revelation.
Everyone in here has read at one time or another book of Exodus, the story of Moses and Pharaoh, the escape through the Red Sea or Sea of Reeds and the coming of Mount Sinai and the covenant with God.
During the Seder on the eve of Passover the Haggadah asks each person to relive the story and to feel as if they were coming out of Egypt. And, indeed, that is the message for today. We are no longer in slavery; African Americans are no longer in slavery. Indeed physical slavery has been all but banished from the planet. But slavery still exists as does ancient Egypt. If you are addicted to alcohol or to drugs. If you are tied to your cell phone or your computer at the expense of fellowship. If you are tied to your work at the expense of our family. If you are enchained by smoking or gambling. Slavery is alive and well today in many forms. Too many of us are trapped in our own Egypt seeking the help of God and Moses. Passover is based on the idea of free will. It says to each man or woman that he or she can free himself or herself with the help of God, from whatever form of slavery that is holding them back from a life of true fulfillment. It says that they too can leave Egypt like the Hebrew people three thousand years ago. It means that each person can look for a Promised Land and perhaps even cross the Jordan during their lifetime and enter Canaan. Perhaps not by themselves, but then, we are a family, not a society of individuals adrift from each other.
Many of you may know the Carole King song, “I’ve been to Canaan and I want to go back again.” Isn’t that the truth today? We have been to Canaan and we want to go back again. The first step is understanding what is holding you back and the second step is leaving your Egypt, even if it means that you are prepared to wander in the desert for a while, as we inevitably must do, before we find our way back.
So I wish for all of you, Jew and Gentile alike, one giant step to toward the Promised Land, the land of peace of mind, the land of empathy, and the land of fellowship.