Rabbi Jason Holtz’s 2022 Passover Message

Rabbi Jason Holtz’s 2022 Passover Message

Rabbi Jason Holtz shares his inspiration and thoughts on this year's Passover holiday with the community.

Rabbi Jason Holtz
Rabbi Jason Holtz

In 2006, I left Jerusalem, where I was a rabbinic student at the time, to travel to Belarus for Passover. In some ways, it felt a little backward to me at the time — for millennia, Jews ended their seders by saying, “Next year in Jerusalem!”

When I was finally there, I left to go to a country that was still oppressed. However, since the Soviet Union fell, there was a resurgence of Jewish life, and I went with other rabbinic students to lead several seders over the course of the holiday.

In Belarus, I experienced for the first time being in a country that wasn’t truly free. We were advised not to discuss politics while there — their government doesn’t take kindly to criticism.

Instead, we talked about freedom from Pharaoh, and we welcomed in Elijah and the future redemption that he represented. To me, those conversations of freedom and redemption felt immediate and pressing in Belarus, even if we couldn’t reference the fact that our seders were being held in one of the last European dictatorships.

Belarus is now partnering with Russia to invade Ukraine, and I’ve been thinking back a lot to Passover 2006. The same country that suffered under a dictator 16 years ago is still suffering under the same dictator.

The prayers for freedom we offered there are still unfulfilled. Not only that, but now Belarus with Russia is causing so much suffering and tragedy with its invasion of Ukraine.

Coming into Passover this year, I’ll continue to share stories of redemption and prayers for freedom. When I lift up Elijah’s cup, my thoughts will be with those living under dictatorships and their wars. May those things soon come to an end, so we can all enjoy peace and freedom.

Rabbi Jason Holtz is the rabbi of Temple Kehillat Chaim in Roswell.

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