Why is This Year Different From All Other Years?

If you are Jewish, you get the title of this post. It’s a take-off on the Four Questions that get read by the youngest family member at the annual seder (SAY-der), the ritual meal that marks the beginning of Passover.

I couldn’t hold or attend a family seder this year because I was on this Civil Rights Educational Freedom Tour with my closest family members.

I don’t miss the matzoh, but I do miss the music and the message.

Passover has always been my favorite Jewish holiday. Actually, it’s my only Jewish holiday; the last one left that still speaks to me. Pesach (PAY-sock) is the annual time to remember the Jewish experience and freedom from slavery in Egypt.

The story is easily adaptable to many other struggles for justice. I’ve attended feminist seders, LGBT equality seders, Black-Jewish seders, even a seder related to the sanctuary movement on behalf of Central American refugees. It’s a flexible tradition and any oppressed group fighting for liberation can find rich metaphor in the story.

At the seder table – whether I’ve written the Haggadah (the service) or not – I’ve always made it a point to make connections to the issues of exploitation and oppression of today: global sweatshops, deportation of immigrants; environmental racism. And when we list the plagues of biblical times (frogs, locusts, hail, lice, etc.) we always add: racism, violence, hatred, homophobia, pollution, and the list goes on and on. Although, as a mom who’s had to battle the invisible enemy, I usually feel compelled to keep lice on the list.

One part of the story that I love in particular is the telling of the parting of the Red Sea, an image that has stuck with me vividly from too many viewing of Charlton Heston playing Moses in that kitchy, campy Hollywood movie “The Ten Commandments.”

As the story goes, the Red Sea didn’t part until some took the first step into the water. Somebody must take the risk and lead the way. 

Our journey through the South reliving the civil rights movement has been like a week-long seder – a pilgrimage in which we are re-telling and embracing our own country’s liberation stories. But unlike some seders, we’re not anxiously waiting for the prayers and songs to end so that we can eat. We are already full.

 

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Julie Drizin, Silver Spring 

 

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