Passover #TorahForTheResistance
Justice, Religion

Passover #TorahForTheResistance: Spiritual Resilience

This piece of Passover #TorahForTheResistance is part of a series written by young rabbis, rabbinical and religious students about Jewish resistance to Trump through faith, Judaism and spirituality. 

Our tradition teaches us this time of year that the more a person tells the story of our exodus from Egypt, the more praiseworthy is that person. Pesach, perhaps uniquely amongst our many holidays, provides us with a deeply necessary container, within which we are simultaneously able to celebrate and rejoice in our redemption and recognize, all the while, that that redemption has not now and never has been wholly realized.
I have been thinking a great deal these past few months about resilience as a profoundly spiritual act. The Jewish people knows, deep within, what it means to be resilient, what it means to hold fast to a tradition of such richness and depth when doing so often came at an incredibly steep price. Pesach is a time of year in which we recount our own story of freedom and liberation. Our rituals are meant to be simultaneously remembrances and reenactments. The Seder is not meant to memorialize an event in our collective past but is instead intended as an experiential vehicle through which every generation becomes an integral part of our people’s story. The Haggadah teaches us that in every generation, each and every one of us is to see ourselves as if we, too, went out of Egypt. Quite a tall, aspirational order, but one I find immensely meaningful. Too often, I know I at least tend to say this line by rote, not pausing to do some deep reflective work into the larger implications of that command for me and inviting others into that conversation. Perhaps it was too abstract, too aspirational.
Over the past year or so, I have become increasingly interested in ritual and the place that rituals hold in our daily lives and in the collective life of our people. I am also very interested in ritual’s role in the life of an activist. As someone who has been involved in activism for quite some time, I found that I too often bifurcated my work—rabbinics over here and activism over there, though in truth they are inextricably connected for me. One of the many things I absolutely love about Pesach is the flowering of creative ritual and liturgy. I have found much spiritual sustenance within this work, as it seeks to expand our story to connect it with those of others facing oppression, or is used as a vehicle through which we can highlight justice issues within a ritual framework. This year, I am finding myself connecting very deeply and viscerally to the ways in which the rituals around Pesach as our tradition has passed down to us give us an opportunity to experience ourselves as individuals and as a collective whole in all of our complexity and fullness. If we are each commanded to see ourselves as if we, too, went out of Egypt, perhaps we ought to also ask ourselves, how does my individual experience intersect with and diverge from that of others? If the liberation we celebrate during Pesach we know not to be fully realized, how does this manifest in my life, the life of my community, and the lives of those around me?
In this time of tremendous upheaval, many of us are seeking the wisdom of those who have traversed similar roads before us. I am never as deeply moved as I am when I am privileged to hear the stories of bold, courageous and trailblazing leaders from previous generations. I yearn to learn humbly, rejoice in their successes and mourn with them the milestones they were not able to reach. I am forever indebted to those who have come before me, those many incredible individuals I am blessed to call teachers, mentors, rabbayim, who, finding the status quo untenable fought tirelessly for change. I would not be who I am today were it not for their tireless work and struggle.
It can be easy to forget just how much progress we have seen in our lifetime as we find ourselves thrown into a world of chaos, in which so many foundational assumptions are upended. We are so aware of just how far we must still go, and that awareness is key. Just as our ancestors told the story of our collective liberation, knowing that the realities of their lives were so far from the story of freedom they were telling themselves and their children, so, too, must we. Remembering the exodus is something that our rabbis believed to be so central to what it meant to live as a Jew and inhabit our story fully that it is not merely something we do on Pesach—we remember it twice daily, on Shabbat and all other festivals as well. I believe the centrality of recounting the exodus is an act of tremendous spiritual resilience. Though the reality of our lives and our world might be one of great struggle, suffering and trial, we also experience moments of tremendous joy and love, and those are important to recount and recall. Though our world feels far from liberatory, our people experienced liberation in some deeply meaningful ways and remembering this is an important tool for helping us move forward.
As difficult as the world in which we live is, we are still able to dream, to imagine a future in which the redemption we yearn for is complete.
Remembering and recounting the story of the exodus is an act of great faith, as we dare to believe that a better future is possible. At the same time, being commanded to see ourselves as having left Egypt also compels us, I believe, to think about the ways in which so many of us are still in that narrow place. It is easier for some of us to think about moving from narrowness to expansiveness and into spaciousness as we dream about the future we’d love to co-create than others. Knowing this, we must do all we can to make it possible for more of us to feel, even if only for an evening or two, that we have left Egypt. We must act in such a way that we create redemptive communities in a time when the world presents so many obstacles for so many of us. Pesach can hold each of us in our joy as we recount our people’s story, in gratitude for the resilience our ancestors practiced and which we continue to practice and yearning for a future far better than the present.

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