From Our Rabbi: Approaching Liberation

Last week, I wrote about the spirituality of melting down – that so much about our first responses to the corona crisis, and what’s been familiar about our world until now, has been melting away in favor of something new preparing to come forward.

This week, as we lean into the Jewish month of Nissan and the blooms of early spring, we step onto the runway for Passover as a community, as a people and as spiritual seekers.

Passover’s sacred story is core Jewish identity. If we are free, it’s only because our ancestors were freed. The liberation from bondage that we celebrate at Passover isn’t only theirs then but also ours now. And as their liberation then was to harness freedom to help repair the world, all the more so for us now.

Put bluntly, we’re free for a purpose. We exist as a people to bring that purpose to life in a world in which too many remain shackled literally, economically, emotionally and spiritually.

Yesterday’s story seems like today’s news.

Liberation is rarely easy – a truth that Torah and our Haggadah don’t sugar coat. Our enslaved ancestors suffered so much that they lost themselves utterly. Freedom came only by otherworldly plagues that spread suffering from slave to slaver. Freedom came only after a whole civilization and its power structures were upturned.

We say again: yesterday’s story seems like today’s news.

I want to believe that we’re seeing now the birth pangs of a new world. We may see soon enough: at minimum, we must intend it and work for it every chance we get with everything we’ve got.

What can “work for it with everything we’ve got” mean when we’re all on socially distanced corona lockdown, some teetering on the economic brink – some fearing for our lives and the lives of our loved ones? What does liberation mean when we’re so many thousands of ventilators short?

Passover is part miracle, part resilience and part defiance. Now’s a time for all three. Our ancestors found it in themselves to share food amidst famine, comfort each other amidst struggle, and even celebrate Seder in Holocaust concentration camps. History shows that there’s no limit to the holy defiance, resilience and therefore miracles that we can muster to hasten freedom.

When corona lets out out, we’ll help birth that new world into being. For now, if today’s news leaves you feeling scared, shackled or small, then you’re right on time. That’s what it feels like before liberation. So in Judaism’s best tradition, we reach in to reach out. We give tzedakah even even if we’re nervous about money. We call and comfort others even if we ourselves need calls and comfort. We lift others up even if we feel flat on the ground. We prepare Passover even in a pandemic – precisely in a pandemic.

That’s the approach of liberation. Freedom will be even sweeter for it, speedily and in our day.

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