The question of what does freedom mean to me in 2021 is a profound question. Many of us have long held the belief that so long as there are people who are not free none of us are truly free. While I still agree with this idea and hold it up as an answer to the question of freedom, I do believe there is a more relevant and necessary answer this year as well. Each year the first night of Passover marks the anniversary of the end and the beginning. It marks the conclusion of our enslavement and the beginning of our move towards freedom.
The first Passover began in Egypt when we were commanded to slaughter a lamb and place its blood on our doorposts. We were further commanded to eat the lamb with bitter herbs and unleavened bread. While we were eating and preparing for our journey, we were aware that in other homes that night something very different was transpiring. I imagine that night as one filled with fear. We were scared of the angel of death being so close to us and those we love. We were scared of possible retribution from the Egyptians and we were scared that maybe the blood on the door wouldn’t work. Fear was not only about the plague, it was also about the unknown. It was about the next day and the next and what it would bring. Would life truly be better in freedom? Would we make it on our own?
I would like to set that fear against the backdrop of last year’s Pesach. We were secluded and isolated and in fear of the air that we breathed and the items we touched. I feel like last year, Passover was so much about that night we spent in our houses in Egypt in fear. I feel like this year our Passover will be about freedom to live with fewer fears. The freedom to live without fear is not a universal freedom either. But it is something that we need to be aware of this year.
Pesach 5781 is a celebration of our last (we hope) Pesach seder that isn’t enormous. It is our last seder of adjusting recipes from many to few. This year we all will celebrate that we are free to not be afraid of the air we breathe and the people around us. We are free to not be afraid that going to a store will be a catastrophic decision. This year we all must appreciate that we need to become freer and freer to live without fear on a regular basis.
Rabbi Josh Hearshen is spiritual leader of Congregation Or VeShalom.