At our Passover Seder, we celebrate the story of Moses and the people he led out of slavery 3,000 years ago.
ּעֲבָדִים הָיִינוּ הָיִינו. עַתָּה בְּנֵי חוֹרִין
Avadim hayinu hayinu. Ata b’nei chorin.
We were slaves to Pharaoh in Egypt. Now we are free.
Had our ancestors not escaped the chains of bondage, then even today we and our children and our grandchildren might still be slaves. Even if all of us were wise, all of us understanding, all of us knowing the Torah, we would still be obligated to discuss the exodus from Egypt; and everyone who discusses the exodus from Egypt at length is praiseworthy.
Let us remember that the thirst for freedom exists in all people. Throughout the centuries, the story of Moses and the exodus from Egypt has inspired Jews and non-Jews in times of persecution and hardship. Long after the legendary time of Moses, African people were brought to America as slaves. These slaves longed for freedom, and they were inspired by the story of Moses and the ancient Israelites. When the slaves in America sang "Go Down Moses," they were thinking of their own leaders who were working to end slavery.
Centuries after the time of Moses' tale, most Jews lived in Europe, where they were often persecuted and their lives were filled with terror and despair, until many Jewish families learned of a place called America, a place where persecuted people from all over the world could live without fear. By the thousands, and then by the millions, year after year, they left all they had ever known to embark on a dangerous voyage for the shores of America in search of "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."
The freedom we celebrate tonight is not only freedom from slavery; it is also the freedom to live in peace, with dignity and hope for a bright future. This enduring vision of freedom has inspired the Jewish people since the ancient times when the Bible was written, and helps us understand the struggle of all people to be free. Even now in the 21st century, the struggle for freedom continues for others. This evening, as we celebrate our own liberation, let us take notice of the on-going struggles toward liberty here and in many other parts of the world. Let us remember that the thirst for freedom exists in all people.
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