Passover: A Hopeful Holiday

March 26, 2024

Passover: A Hopeful Holiday

The Jewish people have always had a “glass is half full’ mindset. Through centuries of being persecuted and maligned we have, in every age, rebuilt and then moved forward from the past while taking our faith, our rituals and values with us. Hope, the belief that we can change the world, and our willingness to continue to work for a better future have kept us alive and resilient.

There are many examples in the upcoming holiday of Passover which illustrate the hopeful perspective with which the Jewish people have always operated.

1. One name for Passover is Chag haAviv, the Springtime Holiday. Emerging from the darkness and cold of winter, we witness the trees and flowers blooming and the warming weather. It is a time of renewal and rebirth, both physical and spiritual.

2. The signature food for Passover, Matza is made of only flour and water. It was the bread we made in haste leaving Egypt that sustained us throughout our flight from slavery. We refer to it as lechem oni – the bread of our affliction/poverty. It reminds us of our humble origins, and of our enslavement. During Passover we eat matza not only as a reminder of our past, but we do so in the context of freedom and luxury. Each year, we recite during the seder “let all who are hungry come and eat.” We have enough matzah (and other food) not only for ourselves, but enough to share our abundance with others.

3. Towards the end of the seder, we invite Elijah, the forerunner of the Messianic age into our homes. Elijah symbolizes the ever-present hope for redemption, for us and all humanity, a time when peace, prosperity and contentment will reign. Elijah's cup sits on the seder table filled with wine, from the beginning waiting for its turn. When we get to that section, participants stand, while one goes to the front door and holds it open. We imagine Elijah coming in, taking a sip of the wine from the cup, and then leaving. On Passover night, Elijah visits every seder in every place around the world. The open door symbolizes a future in which we bring about the redemption of the world with our own hands.

4. The concluding words of the seder include “Next Year in Jerusalem”. A literal understanding of this phrase would indicate that we hope next year to be in Jerusalem, the Jewish homeland. The word Jerusalem comes from the word ‘shalem’ which means peace or wholeness. So, when we recite ‘next year in Jerusalem’, we are expressing our hopes that next year may we celebrate Passover next year in a world that is more ‘shalem’, whole and at peace.

Passover tells the story of how our enslaved ancestors held out hope that someday their prayers would be answered, and that hope sustained them through their darkest hours. Our celebration of Passover requires that we tell the story of our enslavement in detail, as well as our flight to freedom. Remembering our past invites us not only to be grateful for the freedoms we currently have; we are also reminded of the power each of us possess to make the world better for ourselves and for others.

May this time of Passover be for all of us one of inspiration, hope and peace.