A Passover Message from Rabbi Edwin Goldberg
An Arab chief tells a story of a spy who was captured and then sentenced to death by a general in the Persian army. This general had the strange custom of giving condemned criminals a choice between the firing squad and the big, black door. As the moment for execution drew near, the spy was brought to the Persian general, who asked the question, “What will it be: the firing squad or the big, black door?”
The spy hesitated for a long time. It was a difficult decision. He chose the firing squad.
Moments later shots rang out confirming his execution. The general turned to his aide and said, “They always prefer the known way to the unknown. It is characteristic of people to be afraid of the undefined. Yet, we gave him a choice.”
The aide said, “What lies beyond the big door?”
“Freedom,” replied the general. “I’ve known only a few brave enough to take it.”
This year, as we contemplate the meaning of freedom I hope we will pledge to work harder to liberate those imprisoned by hate, ignorance and poverty. And I hope we will pledge to work on ourselves as well.
The Haggadah teaches us that בכל דור ודור חייב אדם לראות את עצמו כאילו הוא יצא ממצרים: In every generation a person is obligated to see themselves as if they were liberated from Egypt. In Hebrew, Egypt is known as ‘Mitzrayim,’ a narrow place. The seder asks that we identify with those currently oppressed, marginalized, or restricted; those who yearn and fight for freedom. Not out of pity, but because we are or have been them.
During the seder, we should not only ask the traditional Four Questions, but also invite each other to become living documents and witnesses to oppression and liberation, both social and personal. At your Seder I encourage people to ask each other these questions: Which communities or individuals are currently in Mitzrayim – in a narrow place? And when have you dwelt in Mitzrayim? Finally, what is keeping you back from walking through the door of freedom?
You might even recite this poem, by Adrienne Rich:
Either you will
go through this door
or you will not go through.
If you go through
there is always the risk
of remembering your name.
Things looks at you doubly
and you must look back
and let them happen.
If you do not go through
it is possible
to live worthily
to maintain your attitudes
to hold your position
to die bravely
but much will blind you,
much will evade you,
at what cost who knows?
The door itself
makes no promises.
It is only a door.
Will you decided to go through the door marked “Freedom”?
Happy Pesach! And enjoy the questions!
Rabbi Edwin Goldberg