The Jewish Studio

Resilience After the Seder

Part of a yearlong series on resilience in Jewish spiritual life.

This year’s Passover seder is history. Cups were filled and drunk and filled and spilled and drunk and filled again. Matzah was broken, crunched and crumbled. Soup was slurped. Stories were told. Songs were sung. A marinade of elation, pride, afterglow, exhaustion and indigestion remains.

And, Passover isn’t over. Now what?

Passover is the resilience holiday. In countries worldwide, in dozens of languages, seder gatherings recited these ancient words of continuity and memory:

“We were slaves to a Pharaoh in Egypt.” (Despite centuries, the resilience of identity and spirit were not totally crushed.)

“God led us out of there with a mighty hand an outstretched arm.” (No earthly power, however formidable and seemingly insurmountable, can match the potency and resilience we call God.)

“Had God not redeemed us from bondage, we and our children and our children’s children still would be enslaved.” (Negative patterns, both individual and societal, also are resilient and suffer the inertia of continuity unless and until we actively change them.)

“We all are to regard ourselves as if God personally liberated us from Egypt.” (We carry this resilient imprint deep within us: it is part of our identity and spiritual lodestar.)

“You will tell your child on [Passover]: I do this because of what God did for me when came forth from Egypt.” (Liberation continues: it reaches forward in time and place, inside and out, toward ever more complete inclusion.)

Passover’s resilience is precisely that this history isn’t just history: it’s now. Our calling, our spiritual opportunity – even our duty in this broken, topsy-turvy world – is to make Passover’s words resiliently real in our day.

Understood this way, the 49-day Omer count now beginning – from Passover (liberation) to Shavuot (revelation) — is about continuing what we just began at the Passover seder. It’s one thing to celebrate history’s liberation: it’s another to make liberation real today and tomorrow.

The Netivot Shalom (1911-2000) taught that Passover’s over-the-top majesty and celebration seek to awaken in us our own embodied feeling of freedom, so that this feeling can impel us to walk the path of continuing liberation under our own power. We’re lifted up to see freedom not as a mirage or a distant vista but as here and now. Only by renewing our own vibrant individual sense of freedom’s aliveness, here and now, can we make it real – and teach it to others by living it in every tight place.

As Abraham Joshua Heschel wrote:

“We are God’s stake in history. We are dawn and dusk, the challenge and the test. How strange to be a Jew and to go astray on God’s perilous errands.  We have been offered as a pattern of worship and as a pray for scorn, but there is more still in our destiny. We carry the gold of God in our souls to forge the gate of the kingdom. The time for the kingdom may be far off, but the task is plain.”

Happy freedom. Happy journey. Happy Passover.

– Rabbi David Evan Markus

Originally published at The Jewish Studio.

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