As participatory as High Holy Day services may be, it sometimes feels like a show. The pristine nature of the adorned, white Torahs. Everyone dressed to their finest. The operatic, enchanting voice of the Cantor bellowing out Kol Nide. You can’t help but feel like you have entered a theater in which a dramatic story will unfold. But Passover doesn’t lend the same permission to sit back and watch the show. Quite the opposite. On Passover, you are the main actor. You are the show.
Andre Neher, French Jewish scholar and philosopher wrote, “No Jew can pass the Haggadah untouched. For its style is not narrative, but interrogative. Its story is not told like a legend, but like a problem. One initial question is asked, and all others follow from it: ‘What is the difference between this night and all other nights?’ It is for the Jew to answer if he can, and if he cannot, to feel that the question contains a challenge. Like an unfinished play, the night of the Exodus continues through the centuries, seeking actors to live it perpetually, and to grasp its essential meaning.”
We sit around the table and search our hearts for the meaning of the Passover festival. If each one of us is meant to feel as if we personally left Egypt, how do we foster conversations about modern enslavement and liberation? About historical and collective memory? In which ways do we feel as if this evening is truly different? Why is this year different from all others? What stands out on this very night?
Our answers will surely vary. Perhaps this year is different because of who is missing from the table. Or conversely, who is sitting at the table. Perhaps this year we feel liberated from an addiction, obstacle, or challenge that always seems to push us away from success. Is this the year in which we still feel enslaved and will decide to seek help in releasing ourselves from whatever shackles pin us down?
The story of Passover isn’t meant to be told. The story of Passover is meant to be lived.
May this Passover night be different from all others. Different because you are in the center of its story.