For Jewish communities throughout the world, the observance of Passover reaches its conclusion this weekend.
This weeklong spring festival is the oldest holiday of our faith, for according to the book of Exodus, Moses and all Israel were commanded on the very night of their exodus from Egypt itself to observe the Passover in every generation as a sacred, annual tradition.
Ritually, this observance looks back well over 3,000 years ago to the time when God redeemed ancient Israel from bondage to freedom, from agony to joy, from mourning to festivity, from darkness to light, and from servitude to redemption. The liturgy of this celebration urges each of us to feel as though it was not only our ancestors, but each of us whom God redeemed long ago.
God’s blessings to us back then were many: God brought us out of Egypt, divided the Red Sea for us, permitted us to cross on dry land, sustained us for 40 days in the desert, fed us with manna, ordained the Sabbath, brought us to Mount Sinai, gave us the Torah, led us into the land of Israel, built for us the Temple, sent us prophets of truth, and made us a holy people to perfect the world under the kingdom of the Almighty, in truth and righteousness.
Yet at the very same time, Passover also asserts that we and all of humanity still await a redemption from God more lasting and more splendid than any of the past.
God’s great redemption yet to come, we are taught, will be ours when all men and women turn to God in love, when corruption and evil give way to integrity and goodness, when superstition no longer enslaves the mind nor idolatry blinds the eye, and when all who dwell on Earth become one in spirit and one in friendship, forever united in God’s sacred service.
Thus, in gazing both back in time and into the future, the message that Passover imparts is this: As children of God, we have come into this world not for strife and discord, not for hatred and envy, and not for rivalry and bloodshed. Rather, we have come into this world to know and to understand God who created us all and to reflect God’s will at all times in everything that we think, say and do.
So, in this world so very torn by violence and pain, in this world so far from wholeness and peace, in this world waiting still to be redeemed, let us pray that this be the year that we and all people merit the blessings inherent in God’s great redemption yet to come.
Rabbi Larry Schlesinger serves Temple Beth Israel in Macon.