Pesach 1 & 2
By Chazan Jaclyn Chernett
“Thank You for Being Late” is the title of the latest book from the prolific American journalist Thomas Friedman, published just before the American presidential election. He records the phenomenon of the three largest forces on the planet – technology, globalization and climate change – all accelerating at once. This book represents his commitment to pause and reflect deeply on what he says is a fundamental turning point in history.
This compelling book defines what Friedman calls his own declaration of independence from the whirlwind, and seeks truth within a world of turmoil. He describes his writing thus: “This act of chemistry usually involves mixing three basic ingredients: your own values, priorities and aspirations; how you think the biggest forces, the world’s biggest gears and pulleys, are shaping events; and what you’ve learned about people and culture – how they react or don’t – when the big forces impact them.”
After a lengthy and detailed excursus into the forces creating the current world of disorder, he sees his salvation ultimately in his Jewish roots. He sees Judaism’s values and aspirations as based on community and as building hope for a life of strength for the future.
Hope and strength together are the core of our celebration of Pesach. Freedom is freedom towards hope.
What a time we are living in! We see so many people running away from the tragedies of violence, famine and death. It’s almost as though we are reading a biblical narrative. It is distressing. And this is the real world. It is no fake news. Technology is overtaking human minds as algorithms respond to each other faster than humanity can think. Through our own genius we have created a global network where news is not new. And climate change is real.
The message of Pesach isn’t just that Moses implored the intransigent despot Pharaoh to “let My people go”. The essence is the purpose of this freedom, “that they may serve Me”. We, the people, are free to become a just, compassionate, caring society, everything that life under an autocracy was not. It is in this that we find our Jewish essence.
We are slaves to a world that is overtaking us at this turning point in history. The message of Pesach is ever more urgent. By cleaving to our values and creating a community that teaches and lives by compassion and love, a community without hate, a community where we listen to each other, a community of shared values for the betterment of society, we can move towards a spiritual freedom needed now just as much as it was then.
Pesach, z’man cherutenu, the time of our freedom, the yearning and the hope, takes on new meaning in every generation, with its roots in the birthing of the Jewish people as we left Egypt. It is the genius of Judaism that has built in to its core fabric rituals for remembering. It is in this remembering that we know who we are. It is this remembering that has carried us along the swirling tides of many turning points in history.
Jaclyn Chernett is the Chazan of Kol Nefesh Masorti Synagogue.