Shabbat and Passover

March 30, 2018

Tonight, of course, is both Shabbat AND Passover. It’s worth noting that according to the account of the Ten Commandments in Deuteronomy, chapter 5, “Observe the Sabbath Day to keep it holy . . . For you shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God brought you out of there by a mighty hand and by an outstretched arm; therefore the Lord your God commanded you to keep the Sabbath Day.” We observe the Sabbath as the ultimate symbol that we are no longer slaves, but free people!

In fact, this theme of freedom which is the central idea in tonight’s Passover Seder, is the core concept in the Jewish passion for Justice. Over and over, the Torah commandments end in a reminder that we were slaves in Egypt, noting that our awareness of slavery and oppression is a powerful motivator in our commitment to social justice. In fact, 50 commandments specifically relate to our being strangers, outsiders, in Egypt:

You shall not subvert the rights of the stranger or the fatherless; you shall not take a widow’s garment in pawn. Remember that you were a slave in Egypt and that your Eternal God redeemed you there; therefore do I enjoin you to observe this commandment. (Deuteronomy 24:17-18)

You too must love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt. (Deuteronomy 10:19)

You shall not oppress a stranger, for you know the soul of the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt (Ex.23:9)

In fact . . . the very first of the Ten Commandments mentions the exodus from Egypt: I am the Lord your God who brought you out of the Land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. (Exodus 20:2)

Our holiday has many names: Pesach (Passover); Chag HaAviv (The Festival of Spring); and Yom Cheiruteinu (The day of our liberation). But of all the names, perhaps the most important is Yom Cheiruteinu. We celebrate freedom – not just in order to remember our own collective past and our own collective oppression, but with a resolve to seek justice and freedom for all.

Shabbat Shalom, and Chag Same’ach.