(Art by Nomy Lamm)
Tonight marks the first night of Passover (or Pesach), so chag pesach sameach (“happy Passover!”) to everyone celebrating! The story of Passover is deeply connected to the work of IJV — we celebrate the liberation of the Jewish people from slavery, and also remind ourselves that many people around the world are still oppressed, recommitting ourselves to the fight for their liberation as well.
An empowering Pesach story can be found in the Midrash, the stories told to fill in details left out of the Torah. One midrash tells that when the Children of Israel were trapped at the shore of the Red Sea and the Pharaoh’s army was bearing down on them, Moses held his staff out over the sea and… nothing at all happened. The people were desperate, crying and wailing. One person, Nahshon ben Aminadav, shook off the paralysis of fear and stepped into the water. And stepped out farther. Up to his knees, up to his hips, up to his navel, to his chin, to his very nostrils. And then, and only then, the waters parted and the people rushed through on dry land to freedom and safety on the other side.
There are times when we must draw inspiration from Nahshon and step boldly forward, regardless of the consequences. Sometimes, overwhelming odds that seem insurmountable can be overcome by simply beginning to do what must be done. Taking the first step sets in motion a whole series of events that cannot be foreseen. Without that first step, however, they will never come about. It’s a lesson from Pesach that applies very well to our times.
This year’s Passover is a bittersweet one, since we cannot celebrate together in person. Nonetheless, we wanted to share some Passover resources for people hoping to connect with community.
Are you looking to attend an online seder? The Seattle branch of Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) is hosting one on Thursday, April 9 at 5pm PT / 8pm ET, and it’s open to everyone! Register here!
Thinking about hosting your own online liberation seder? The New Synagogue Project in Washington DC has put together the “Online Seder Leading Workshop 5780, Leader Guide”. And here’s a similar guide from Jewish Voice for Peace.
Looking for some inserts that are especially relevant for this year amidst the global Covid-19 pandemic? Have a look at Rabbi Brant Rosen’s 5780/2020 passover resource, “Fight for the Health of your community.” Here as well is a great compilation of radical haggadot (seder service guides) from groups such as Jewish Voice for Peace, Jewdas and Jews for Racial and Economic Justice.
And finally, if you’re grappling with how to approach difficult conversations on Israel-Palestine with your family this Passover season, check out our online resource The Hardest Conversation. The Hardest Conversation seeks to offer a safe and anonymous space for Jews to have conversations about Israel that many of us work very hard to avoid.
All the best to you, and may this year’s Pesach bring us all many steps closer to the ultimate, universal liberation that so many have been struggling for.
Rabbi David Mivasair,