What is the deeper meaning of Passover?
Passover commemorates the Israelites’ exodus from Egypt and the miracles that G-D performed to redeem us from slavery to freedom. On Passover, or Pesach in Hebrew, the Jewish people refrain from eating chametz (leavened bread) and gather with family and friends to read the Haggadah—the miraculous story of the Exodus—during the two Seder nights. At the Seders, we drink four cups of wine, eat matzah (unleavened bread), eat symbolic foods, sing songs, and have a festive meal. Anyone who has celebrated Passover before knows how joyous the holiday can be!
As we celebrate the rituals of the holiday, gather with family to read the Haggadah, and enjoy our macaroons and matzah ball soup, it is important for us to also contemplate: what is the deeper meaning of Passover?
Our sages teach that “in each and every generation, a person is obligated to regard himself as though he actually left Egypt.” While I can pay tribute to the trying times of our ancestors and honor their experience, how can I personally relate to the idea of leaving Egyptian slavery?
I am fortunate to live in America, a country founded upon freedom and liberty. I am blessed to have the right to free choice, expression, religion, and a wide array of other liberties. I proudly express and celebrate my Judaism while wearing Jewish jewelry—including a chai necklace, Star of David necklace, and a hamsa bracelet— wherever I go. Slavery is a concept far removed from me.
I found my answer when learning the following: the Rabbis explain that the Jewish people’s freedom from enslavement was not only marked by physical freedom. The Jewish people’s journey from Egypt into the desert and eventually into the land of Israel was a spiritual journey as well. We no longer lived in a foreign land under a foreign rule of law. We became a people, defined by our shared experience and the receiving of the Torah.
The idea of spiritual freedom is one that I can relate to. What am I, and my peers, “slaves” to in 2023? Are we holding ourselves back from living a spiritually free life, a life filled with meaning, growth, and connection?
After contemplating this question for some time, I realized the answer is yes, we are all slaves to something. Some people are slaves to their jobs, working so many hours that they do not have time for their families or leisure activities. Others are slaves to technology, constantly attached to their smartphones and tablets. And some of us are enslaved by our own limiting beliefs and fears, while doubting ourselves and our capabilities to achieve our dreams.
This Passover, I invite you to join me in discovering what it is that enslaves you—whether it’s your iPhone, the endless hours at the office, negative self-talk, or something else. I suggest taking the time to consider how you can set yourself free in order to live a more fulfilling and meaningful life. After all, Passover is not just about our ancestors’ experience, but about our own personal exoduses.
Wishing you and your loved ones a happy and meaningful Passover!