La La How The Life Goes On

Passover Posturing

Posted on: April 25, 2016


It’s that time of year again, friends. Tis Passover. Where Jews around the world gather at Seders to remember The Exodus. That panicked flight from bondage in Egypt, with only the clothes on their backs, pursued by Pharoah’s military.

We are commanded to experience the Seder as if we were there. As if we ourselves were slaves in Egypt. As if we ourselves had to flee for our lives. As if we ourselves were escaping servitude or death in hopes of reaching a promised land. The purpose of this command is so that we never forget what it’s like to be in that position; what it’s like to run for your life, pursued by people who want to kill you and your precious babies.

Some folks struggle with how to effectively meet that command. How do we inculcate in our modern day cushy-life kids the belief that we must fight slavery in all its forms because we were once slaves in the land of Egypt? That we cannot consider ourselves truly free while another people is enslaved? That we are not just encouraged but REQUIRED to combat slavery and oppression as a result of our own history?

The simple answer is: Ask A Syrian Refugee.

If you struggle with whether we should aid refugees from Syria, you need to have a seat. All y’all who oppose having “those people” come to the safety of the West need to take a good, long, hard, cold look at your soul. At your pious intonations about freedom around the Seder table. At your claim to Jewishness. At your insistence that we help “our own” first.  Because today I’m calling you out for hypocrisy and pettiness.

Those children stuck in refugee camps on the borders of various European countries? Those children ARE our “own.” They are children in our human family, fleeing for their goddamn lives at ages when you and I were watching Sesame Street and choosing ice cream flavors. Those families full of “suspicious men” are broken apart, in some cases because a mom and one child crossed a border before it closed and now the father and daughter are left behind. They cannot go back to certain death and they cannot move forward until someone opens a border and lets them in.

Hear, O Israel: the Passover liturgy commands us to love the stranger in our lands, since we were once strangers in the land of Egypt. Nowhere does God say you must treat the stranger with compassion IF YOU LIKE HIM or IF HE’S YOUR RELIGION or IF HE DOESN’T FREAK YOU OUT or IF HE WON’T NEED WELFARE or IF HE FITS SOME SANITIZED VERSION OF ‘STRANGER’ YOU HAVE IN YOUR HEAD. Love the stranger: The End. So you want to read a nice big story about a persecuted people fleeing death? And you want to feel like a good person because you checked all the boxes of the Passover Seder Required Elements? You go ahead. But unless and until you take positive action to treat that stranger with compassion and kindness, right now–today, and in whatever form he may take–you may be talking Jewishly but you are not acting Jewishly.

So, during this Passover 2016, take as long as you need to think about how you can right now–today–participate in a modern day Pesach story. How you can play a part in freeing fellow humans from fear and danger. How you can live that commandment to love the stranger. How you can put your money where your matzoh is–and advocate for the refugees who need us to help part a sea and bring them to safety.

FRONTLINE Children of Syria:





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