Progressively Speaking: What social welfare lessons does Passover tell?

Progressively Speaking: What social welfare lessons does Passover tell?

 Rabbi Aaron Goldstein looks into the Pesach story and reflects on its lessons for today's world

Seder table!
Seder table!

 The Passover story may be the same each year but, like a good joke, the magic lies in how and where you tell it. Most in Liberal Judaism enjoy a tradition over Passover, spending the first night at a family seder and the second at a communal one.

This gives us the opportunity to be closer to family and friends, but also get to know those further from our general life experience. For me, this presents three key social welfare and justice opportunities.

First, it brings together all the generations, sitting around the same table, as they tell and respond to the story of the Exodus from Egypt – a timely antidote to the referendum on the EU, and the fallout since, which has highlighted major differences in the outlook of our generations.

The conversation sparked by the Haggadah can help us understand each other, whether that is grandchildren talking to their grandparents or cheder pupils chatting with community elders.

Recently-introduced items to the seder plate by the younger generation, such as oranges and Miriam’s Cup – which represent our key Liberal commitment to equality for all – are also conversation starters that can begin to break down generational barriers.

Passover is also a time that asks us to consider the homeless. This is both those who are physically homeless – including refugees and people fleeing terror as our ancestors did in the Pesach story – but also those without a family or trapped in an abusive home.

There are also those who are spiritually homeless during Passover. Maybe they feel restricted by a form of Judaism where they can’t be who they want or love who they want, or maybe they just yearn for practices that fit with modern day life.

We must help these people find a home within our Liberal community.

Finally, Pesach is about freedom. While we have ours, there are many who do not. Those are the people we should fight for now.

When I was a teenager, this meant protesting apartheid outside South Africa House on the third night.

For my family today, including my teenage children, it has led to connections with Darfuri asylum seekers and thinking of modern-day slavery in this country.

  •  Rabbi Aaron Goldstein serves Northwood & Pinner Liberal Synagogue
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