RABBI AMY EILBERG (Jay Phillips Center for Interfaith Learning, Saint Paul, Minn.): The central themes of Passover have to do with exploring the journey from different kinds of enslavement. Not just the historic kind referenced in the biblical story, but on multiple levels, journeys in life, individually and collectively—from enslavement, from constriction, from tyranny to freedom, liberation, transformation of self, community, and the world.
The core message of the seder is to say that we, in its particularistic Jewish meaning, we who know the soul of the stranger because we were strangers, we were slaves, we were the object of oppression in Egypt, since we know that story so well we are always—it’s fundamental to who we are to stand in our lives as champions for the oppressed.
Just as a seder has groups of four in its structure—there are four cups of wine and four questions and four children—we had four stories to illustrate different kinds of immigrant experiences, people who are still, to use the metaphor of the seder, still not sure that they’re going to make it through the sea alive.
One of the central lines of the seder that has to do with opening the door of our homes, “whoever is hungry may they come here and eat,” we take that simple phrase—I recited it in Aramaic—and then we go around the room and invite whoever can speak that phrase in their native language to go ahead and do that. It’s very beautiful to have that embodied moment of feeling that we have the whole world here.
This is an ancient and also very contemporary, meaningful ritual that is sacred to one group of people and also speaks of themes that are shared by everyone.
People leave with a sense of hope that with this kind of large community of people very much dedicated to these issues, that perhaps we will overcome.