Today is the fourth day of Passover—and seeing as we are halfway through, I wanted to do a little writing about why this is the best holiday ever.
My family is extraordinarily secular: although I am Jewish, I have never even set foot in a synagogue. I once attended Hebrew school, which lasted until my sister and I were politely asked to leave and never come back following events that were definitely not my fault. My experience with religion has always been fraught with doubt and suspicion and a distinct lack of involvement.
That said, Judaism is not just a religion. I have heard the Jewish people referred to as an ethno-religious group (in anthropologic terms), and I like that because it insists upon what we all know: the Jewish people are multitudinous and varied and they don’t all look like that one bar mitzvah boy (huge pet peeve and you totally know what I am talking about) and the religion part, while important, is not the sum total.
My family always, always, celebrated Passover. It was my single greatest connection to the Jewish religion and the Jewish culture: sure, we celebrated other holidays, but none of them ever had the same meaning as Passover.
Passover is culture building. I do not say this in an exclusionary way: in fact, we are taught that when the Israelites left Egypt a “mixed multitude” left with them. But on Passover, everyone repeats the same story, everyone remembers what our ancestors suffered through, everyone celebrates.
Passover celebrates, in essence, liberation from operation. During Passover, we rejoice in the liberation of the Jewish people from slavery at the hands of the Egyptian. However, Passover also acknowledges the many kinds of oppression that still exist today, and most importantly, it teaches that no one can ever be truly liberated until everyone is liberated.
Here at Puget Sound, Hillel holds a Seder the first night of Passover. On Friday, anyone who was willing to cough up seven dollars to cover the amount of Manischewitz settled down to a slightly rowdy ceremony. The food was decent, although the horseradish was not hot enough (my grandmother always makes fresh horseradish and it makes your eyes bleed), the singing was enthusiastic, and the atmosphere was on point.
During the Seder, one of the leaders of Hillel brought up an article they read about counterintuitive lessons from the Passover story: it reminds us that we are both oppressed and oppressor, it teaches us that we need to act instead of waiting for divine intervention, and that instead of being liberated from we are being liberated to. You can read the article here, and note that these are not the only lessons from Passover, but they are the ones most often forgotten.