Progressively Speaking: How can we relate the Exodus story to these times? 
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Progressively Speaking: How can we relate the Exodus story to these times? 

Rabbi Rebecca Birk takes a topical issue and applies a progressive response

Seder plate!
Seder plate!

“In each and every generation, a person is obligated to see themselves as if they personally left Egypt.” (Exodus 18:3) 

I’ve seen inside many kitchens this month. I’m party to what congregants eat for breakfast, how often coffees are refreshed, where they sit for meditative morning Shacharit and how they arrange books. 

This remote style of connecting, through our computer screens, has increased rather than reduced my engagement with community. 

And even more so during Passover, the festival that demands such togetherness albeit one where we couldn’t physically be with many of our loved ones. 

At my seder, faces on a Zoom screen replaced places at the table – but all of us raised our voices and hoped for release from this current constriction. 

Our Haggadah asks us to  consider the particularities of each year and the reality in which we find ourselves. It tells us that every generation, every decade, every year we must find ways to make the Passover story resonate personally. 

In the 1980s, the experience of the refuseniks trying to leave USSR wove into the Exodus narrative. Then, anti-apartheid and civil rights writings amplified our understanding of freedom. 

During the past few years, many in Liberal Judaism invited Syrian refugees to join us during Passover. This year, it is our restriction, our isolation and our uncertainty that is  our Egypt, our narrowness. And when we sang the verse of Hallel from Psalm 118 “out of the narrowness I called to the Eternal; and God answered me with great expansiveness”, it spoke to us right now, in this extraordinary time of suffering and fear. 

I have heard much anxiety; people are worried about their parents, their grandparents, beloveds and even themselves. 

It’s not just around Covid-19 – there is huge concern about business and survival in the future. 

But Passover reminded us that healing will come. This time we are in will end. 

The Exodus story of redemption and liberation should comfort and encourage us.

Rabbi Rebecca Birk serves Finchley Progressive Synagogue 

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