Ancient stories resonate with us to this day.
The annual celebration of Passover begins tonight and will end the evening of April 13. Those who practice Judaism across the globe are holding Seder meals in accordance with their sacred texts. This includes many traditional foods and customs, allowing Jews to celebrate their identity as a people of faith.
Each year, they retell the story of their passage from slavery to freedom. More than 600,000 Israelite families found themselves trapped in Egypt with little recourse. And then God sent someone to bring them out of bondage.
Moses demonstrated the devotion of this singular God to those who believed in him as well as his superiority to the many deities worshipped by the Egyptians. The plagues that tormented those who held the Hebrews captive culminated with the death of the firstborn son of each family.
The enslaved people smeared the blood of lambs on their doorposts, indicating their faith in God. The death visited upon Egypt passed over these homes and spared the families the Lord’s wrath.
The biblical account of Passover has extraordinary significance for the millions of Jews throughout the world. It codified their covenant with God, united them as a nation and gave them a new vision of how to conduct their lives.
This story, however, holds great meaning for the broader world as well. It’s the first epic tale of liberation in human history, one that continues to reverberate with all those who cherish freedom. It also gave us the Ten Commandments, which have served as the basis of religious moral teaching and the foundation of law in Western civilization.
Throughout their history, Jewish people have recalled the Passover story to bring them hope when it was needed most. Their time in Egypt wasn’t their last experience with oppression, and recounting this victory over slavery has inspired every generation since to resist injustice.
But all those who have endured tyranny have found strength in the details of the Passover account. For black Americans fighting against the scourge of slavery, God’s promise to the Israelites was also God’s promise to them.
The story of Moses leading Israelite families out of bondage helped American slaves cling to the notion that they too would be delivered from their misery and find a better life down the road. Here are the words to “Go Down Moses,” a well-known black spiritual:
When Israel was in Egypt’s land/
Oppress’d so hard they could not stand/
Way down in Egypt’s land/
Observing the traditions of Passover also reminds us of our obligation to confront tyranny in all its forms. Acts of vandalism against synagogues and Jewish cemeteries in recent years serve notice that the vulgar sentiments that led to the Holocaust persist to modern times.
Freedom is precious yet easily threatened. Evidence of bigotry against those most vulnerable must not be ignored lest it foments into something unstoppable.
The United States is a nation founded upon the principles of liberty and justice. We pride ourselves on how we have endeavored throughout our history to see even more Americans benefit from them. The ideas embedded in the story of Passover, then, can be said to have found their fulfillment here: a society where no individual is subservient to anyone else.
But the truthfulness of this can only be upheld to the extent that we remain committed to keeping these principles alive. Passover in the United States should be a reminder of not only how far we’ve come but what work still lies ahead.
This is a moment to reflect on the power of hope and a chance to recommit ourselves to the struggle against all forms of oppression. To all who value justice and freedom, Chag Pesach Sameach!
As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.
Welcome to the discussion.
Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.