A Passover Message from Rabbi Michael Bernstein

A Passover Message from Rabbi Michael Bernstein

For our Passover holiday issue, we invited members of our community to share their responses.

Rabbi Michael Bernstein is the spiritual leader of Congregation Gesher L’Torah.

Rabbi Michael Bernstein
Rabbi Michael Bernstein

Every year on Passover we are told to see ourselves as if we were the ones coming out of Egypt. Most of the time we are imagining, or trying to imagine, what slavery was for our people thousands of years ago.  This year, at seder tables around the world, the image will be more immediate. Hundreds were taken hostage in Gaza on October 7th and, achingly, we do not even know how many remain alive in their captivity or their state of wellbeing in mind or body. They are like slaves. What would it mean to think of myself in that place at this time? To not need matza to remind me of what the bread of affliction is like or maror to summon a feeling of bitterness? To have no need for four questions because this night has been the same as all other nights? To have no door to open for Elijah?

What would it mean to be enslaved like the parents, children, siblings, and dear friends of those who were abducted? To pray for their immediate release yet resign myself to counting another day like counting the Omer but without knowing an end date?

How could I begin to answer these questions? Or even ask them in the first place in any meaningful way?

Perhaps this was also on the mind of Maimonides when he shifted the words from: a person must SEE themselves so they must SHOW themselves as if they were the ones coming out of Egypt.  In other words, the seder can’t make us feel like we were really slaves in Egypt, let alone that we have any idea what kind of ordeal is being experienced by those enslaved in Gaza. But we are not left off the hook because we can commit to show up as if the fate of the hostages were our own.

That Let My People Go! is also Let Me Go! Because as long as they are not free, neither are we.

Rabbi Michael Bernstein is the spiritual leader of Gesher L’ Torah in Alpharetta.

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