We are gathered here tonight to affirm our continuity with the generations of Jews who have kept alive the vision of freedom in the Passover story. For thousands of years, Jews have affirmed this vision by participating in the Passover Seder. We not only remember the Exodus but actually relive it, bringing its transformative power into our own lives.
The Hebrew word for Egypt, mitzrayim, means “narrow straits.” Traditionally, mitzrayim has been understood to mean a spiritual state, the “narrow place” of confusion, fragmentation, and spiritual disconnection. Liberation requires us to embrace that which we have been taught to scorn within ourselves and others, including the split-off parts from our own consciousness that we find intolerable and that we project onto some evil Other. The Seder can also be a time to reflect on those parts of ourselves.
Israel left Egypt with “a mixed multitude”; the Jewish people began as a multicultural mélange of people attracted to a vision of social transformation. What makes us Jews is not some biological fact but our willingness to proclaim the message of those ancient slaves: ( say together ) The world can be changed, we can be healed.
Tonight we join with the millions of Jews around the world and our non-Jewish allies who celebrate our liberation from Egypt and also celebrate liberation from all forms of oppression. We rejoice this year in the uprisings in the Middle East, initiated by the immense courage of large numbers of people in Tunisia and Egypt, and pray that they may actually lead to a new democratic, human rights-observing, and peace-oriented society for all the inhabitants of those countries, and inspire tens of millions of others to take the same risks for liberation.
We are the latest embodiment of the people of Israel, and tonight we invite into our Seder all the past generations who have kept faith with the vision of a world healed and transformed. We rise now to say Kiddush — in solidarity with all the generations of Jews throughout history who have kept alive this sacred moment, retold the story, and accepted upon themselves the central mitzvah of Passover: to see ourselves as though we personally had participated in the liberation from Egypt.
Blessing over the first cup of wine.
Baruch atah adonai eloheinu melech ha’olam.
Shecheyanu v’kiy’manu v’higyanu lazman hazeh.
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