Rabbi Wolpe - ADL Impressions

Metsorah – Passover Then and Now

Throughout Jewish history, the Passover has operated on two levels of time. The Haggadah recounts the past, the story of both the Exodus and the Talmudic Rabbis who expound on it. The words make all of the ideas come alive for the participants: slavery, freedom, study, storytelling, song, and symbol. Passover is quintessentially a celebration of the events of the Jewish past.

At the same time, the Passover is about the present. In medieval times, Jews felt their predicament as parallel to their ancestors, and the despotism and persecution with which they lived lent power to the tales of the Haggadah. Closer to our own day, I remember my parents telling me when they visited the Soviet Union how the Jews trapped behind the iron curtain felt the Passover was about them. In the struggles of the slaves, they saw their own struggles; in the character of the Pharaoh, they saw their communist oppressors; in the story of liberation, they saw their own hope. The Seder was not a meal about what was, but what is.

As we sit down to the Seder this year, we have the same experience. In our own day, the Seder is about the liberation from Egypt, but also about the hostages in Gaza. We recall the fear expressed in the time of the plagues but each moment also recalls us to the violence and brutality that our sisters and brothers in the land of Israel both experience and fear today. The Seder is again the story of what was, but also the story of what is.

We are told in the Haggadah that in each generation one must see oneself as if we went forth from Mitzrayim. The reverse is also the case. In each generation we must see Mitzrayim as it surrounds us today.

This year, we remember those among our people who are in captivity. As we recall the trials of our people in ancient times, we pray for the liberation of our people in our own day. In every generation, there have arisen those who would destroy us. And in every generation, we have arisen to fight, to remember, to pray, and tell the story.