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Discovering the moral optimism inherent in Passover

Posted: April 16, 2014

Passover is a rich holiday and has always been my favorite.  This year, as I was preparing the Haggadah supplement by reading through 10 or more different Haggadot I’ve bought over the years, I found  many interesting readings.  The one I want to share now is the notion that Passover is the ultimate exercise in moral optimism.  It reminded me of Martin Luther King’s observation that the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.

There are several points used to reinforce this notion.  First, the simple gathering of friends and family to re-tell the oldest written documentation of the story of a people moving from slavery to freedom is itself a protest against despair.  “The universe might appear deaf to our fears and hopes, but we are not—so we gather, and share them, and pass them down.”

The second reference I found was about karpas, or the green vegetable we eat at the seder.  Here, we are told, we taste in this fresh vegetable all the potential in nature and in ourselves. 

Next, we break the middle matzoh and hide it, finding it at the end of the seder.  Called the afidomen, “it is the symbol that bridges the gap between the tear-stained past and the happier future.  It embodies the faith that there is always a way, concealed though it may be, to make the transition from the suffering that we know to the future that we dream.  The belief in moral progress is of the essence of the seder’s optimism.”

And finally, we end the seder by saying “Next year in Jerusalem” which also has a spiritual meaning.  “The Jerusalem we strive for is the symbol of peace, the destination of the Messiah, the holiest place on earth, the purest expression of the profound Jewish belief that the world will one day be a better place.”

Chag sameach.

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