Dear Friends,

In just two days most of us will be gathered around the seder table with a dish of salt water and a sprig of parsley in front of us, and a haggadah in hand as we communally re-tell our ancient Jewish narrative. The Mishnah instructs us, “In every generation, each of us should feel as though we ourselves had gone forth from Egypt, as it is written: ‘And you shall explain to your child on that day, it is because of what the Eternal did for me when I, myself, went froth from Egypt.’”

Pesach is the festival when we imagine ourselves as characters in the story; having left Egypt and trekking towards the Promised Land. The word for Egypt in Hebrew is mitzrayim which means something much more symbolic than simply the name of a country bordering Israel. Mitzrayim shares the root with metzar, which can mean either "distress" or "a narrow place.”

Therefore, at our seder, not only are we re-telling the great Exodus story beginning with sadness and ending with joy, but we are also symbolically figuring out how we are going to leave those narrow places in our lives and reach a place of freedom. The festival takes us all on a journey, both communally and individually, from one place to another.

As we prepare ourselves for Friday evening, I encourage us all to begin thinking about those things that restrict us, whether they be certain characteristics or insecurities that hold us back and, in a sense, enslave us. May this holiday, in addition, to bringing us together with our friends, loved ones and neighbors, also allow us to figure out how are we going to free ourselves from our own personal narrow places. And then once we figure this out, may each us help others on their own journeys to freedom as well.

A midrash teaches that just as the Sea of Reeds did not split until the Israelites stepped into it, so redemption and freedom cannot come unless we take the first step.

May you have a festive, joyful, meaningful and liberating z’man cheiruteinu, season of our freedom.

Chag Pesach Sameach!

-- Rabbi Joshua Samuels