At any given moment, in the celebration of Passover, there are three of them to celebrate: the one you are in…now, in the Jewish year 5768. Then there is the first Passover, the actual leaving of Egypt. And lastly, there is the final Passover, the one that heralds peace throughout the land and all over the world.
In celebrating the holiday, we interact with each of them. Of course, the story and the ways we celebrate takes us back to the original Passover. How you bring the experience to life, the questions you raise at your Seder table, the kinds of conversation you have about life’s challenges today, what slavery you face, i.e. to the clock, to people who have a hold on you, to matters of ignorance, not knowing enough to be comfortable Jewishly, if that is the case, is the domain of the Passover we are in now. And finally it is the matter of keeping in mind that Judaism is overwhelmed with optimism, a vision that somehow, no matter how bad things are or how troubling the conditions we live with, in the world, we will yet see the day when the world will be at peace. It is a commitment to live as if we are creating such conditions.
You get to choose your focus. Those who don’t take the experience personally can stay in the first Passover: do your obligation of telling the story; go through the ritual; don’t worry about covering all the subjects; just do the Seder the way you are supposed to, sticking to the letter of the Haggadah you are using. You can feel you have done your “duty” at the end, and move on with your life.
The second Passover requires you to be in the moment and the situation; it obligates you to take to heart that what you do in your life matters. Your place in this world can make a difference. You can change the way things are. It means facing up to all the challenges in your life, and those we face as a people. It means taking your time and keeping everyone involved in the Seder ceremony. It means committing to Jewish life and practice as more than honoring the past…that it is a means to see and appreciate what you can do to tangibly make living conditions better, by reducing the impact and place of “slavery” in your life. It is hard work, but very rewarding, in discovering abilities and possibilities in yourself, and in those who share this journey, that your life makes a difference in the quality of life around you.
Lastly, there is the final Passover. It is the calling to do more than confront your life realities; it means envisioning a world at peace and participating in all efforts you can identify to bring a transformed world into being. Jewishly, it means integrating Jewish values, with what grabs your attention in secular settings. Part of that commitment is appreciating Judaism’s unique contribution to community building, a commitment to “we”ness, rather than America’s tendency to “I”ness.
Consider including this conversation at your Seder tables: which Passover are you most drawn to? What can you do to make this holiday much more meaningful than honoring your identity as a Jew?