Passover Thoughts

Shalom Chaverim:

I hope that vacation has brought you rest and renewal, and that wherever you are, you are experiencing some “spring” in your break.  Much of the snow has melted in Williamstown, but no one will confuse us with Florida these days.

On the threshold of Pesach, I’ve been thinking about the maror—the bitter herb—at the seder.  After spending a week cleaning out the chametz—sourness—from our homes, and hopefully ourselves, why do we have to eat bitterness in the midst of our rejoicing?  I think the answer comes from Purim.  Remember a month ago, in between papers and midterms, on Purim we read the story of Esther, and each time we got to the name of Haman, we made noise to blot out the name.  But the only way you can do that is to listen or follow the text carefully to know when “Haman” is being pronounced.  Though your noise may interrupt the name, you’re hyper-aware of Haman throughout the story.  So it is with the bitterness of the maror.  Passover celebrates springtime and freedom and hope.  It’s a time to be happy, putting our slavery behind us.  But we only can rejoice if we remember from where we have come.  Our joy on this holiday comes from knowing that God brought us out of slavery, so that we could live our lives freed from bitterness and oppression.  There’s another reason to remember bitterness as well:  though we may be free today, there is a lot of bitterness and oppression in our world.  From our privileged position as free people, we have a responsibility to be hyper-aware of the bitterness with which so many people have to live.  Writing checks to good organizations helps.  Signing petitions helps.  Being vigilant to be sure that we don’t add bitterness ourselves in our behaviors or our speech also helps.  When we taste a little bitterness at the seder, may each of us be more aware of the bitterness yet to be removed from our lives and the oppression that still exists in the world.  May we use our liberation to bring more freedom to the world this year.

Wishing everyone a sweet and meaningful Pesach…Chag Sameyach. 

Cantor Bob