There's good reason why Passover is the most widely celebrated holiday among Jews. Once we get beyond the obsessive cleaning, cooking and prepping, it's a joyous time for families and friends to come together to mark a momentous chapter in Jewish history.
What's not to love? The seder is rich with symbolism, full of drama and inevitably involves a great deal of heated discussions, gossip and singing.
It's a holiday that venerates tradition and allows — even cries out for — innovation. Hundreds of Haggadahs have been published over the years; supplementary readings and new rituals help us reinvent and enliven the seder, enabling us to constantly re-evaluate what it means to be a slave and what it means to be free.
The Haggadah says: "In every generation, a person is obligated to regard himself as if he personally left Egypt."
This is not just about some ancient historical event. It's really a call to action — a prescription to find our own liberation, a way to connect with the journey that led the Jewish people away from Egyptian bondage and into the Promised Land.
It wasn't an easy journey. Our ancestors balked at the hardships they encountered even before they made their way across the Red Sea. God ultimately got so fed up with the Israelites' whining that those who were freed were then condemned to wander the desert for 40 years. It would take a new generation to find the strength to look beyond the past to the Promised Land.
We, too, often find it hard to get rid of the cobwebs — to look past the security of the present to the promise of the future, however fraught with uncertainty it is.
Here's wishing us all a happy and liberating Pesach.
Health Care and History
When all is said and done, it's too early to know exactly what the effects of the health care reform signed into law this week will have on our community, our institutions and our individuals.
When the process began, most Jewish groups supported many of the provisions included in the historic legislation passed this week — from providing insurance to the millions of uninsured to preventing companies from excluding those with a pre-existing illness.
Unfortunately, the fierce and ugly partisanship that ultimately defined the debate led some Jewish groups to temper their positive reactions for fear of alienating their Republican supporters.
Let's hope that history shows that, like Medicare and Social Security before it, this legislation benefits all Americans and the ugly process becomes a mere footnote.