Passover is on the way. Time to put away the hametz and get set for the “yumminess” provided by matzah. It’s not good enough to just avoid purchasing leavened goods; rather we must actively seek out any remnants of these items in the house and dispose of them. Or at the very least, loan them out. We engage our broomsticks and search for and sweep up those leftover crumbs. Just as important, we need to identify the metaphorical hametz that provides excuses for our inaction. This too ought to be a planned precise procedure. We know deep down in our hearts that in emerging from the winter months, we should gear ourselves up for renewal. Passover is a perfectly suited opportunity to inspire us to serve as advocates for a compassionate globe.
Once again, as we gather around our seder tables, we’ll tell the story of God hearing the cries of the Israelite slaves and empowering Moses to demand freedom from the Pharaoh. Interestingly, Moses is not keen to get involved. He questions his abilities, and responds with fear when God demands that he stand up for what is right: How then should Pharaoh heed me, a man of impaired speech? (Exodus 6:12). We can relate to Moses. Sometimes it appears that the tasks before us are insurmountable. And what difference can any singular attention make?
God hears Moses’ concerns just as God was struck by the needs of the Israelites. God nominates Moses’ brother Aaron to serve as his spokesperson so Moses need not feel alone. As a team, the dynamic duo, aided by God’s inspiration, effectively deliver their message to the Pharaoh. It will take repeated visits, passionate pleas, and strategic thought; but in the end the Israelites will set off to make a fresh start; thus relieved of the cruel burden of slavery. So much promise lies before them even as they encounter obstacles in their way.
Every Passover is important, but at this point in time in particular, we must be attuned to the cries in our midst. Once again we have witnessed the terror of gun violence in Florida and elsewhere. Kudos to the young people in our movement and beyond for speaking up for their basic right to live in safety. Poverty continues to threaten a significant proportion of our community. In facing the challenges of providing affordable housing, it often appears as if we’ve given up in despair. Discrimination and anti-Semitism have increased in recent days. Our children are facing hatred that our own generation would never have anticipated. How are we to respond? There’s only one way, by raising our voices loudly in a caring and compassionate manner. With Moses as our standard, we join our brothers and sisters in channeling our efforts for a united cause.
At the Passover holiday, we devour gefilte fish and brisket in the comfort of our homes. Tomorrow, let us share our blessings. We can’t simply wait for God to intervene. No, that is OUR job. We are prepared and equipped to pursue the tasks at hand. Our brooms are back in cleaning closets. Let’s replace them with other “tools”: a phone to call our elected officials, sneakers for going door to door soliciting support, and perhaps a megaphone so that no one can ignore our shouts and concerted efforts. Chag Sameach!
Rabbi Daniel Mikelberg serves Temple Sinai Congregation of Toronto. He was ordained from the Los Angeles campus of HUC-JIR in 2008.