The overarching Pesach theme of freedom is no more or less relevant today than at any point in history. But the most interesting, and difficult, exercise of our Pesach debates is the most basic: defining what we mean by freedom. We can all agree on the absence of oppression. What, however, of the more positive aspects — the freedom and ability to live our life in a certain way or to make a choice? These are not just the essence of religious debate. They are also the fundamentals of politics and are rightly debated every day of the year by Jew and non-Jew alike. But it says so much about Judaism that we have made such discussions so integral a part of the ritual and observance of being Jewish.
Every year, from the Seder onwards, we do not just examine our own consciences or the state of the world; we consider some of the most fundamental questions of human existence — and the history of the Jewish people. We ponder how that history of slavery and emancipation has shaped us and what lessons we learn from it – such as the critical importance to a fulfilled life of justice, truth and freedom. And we do this not simply in the formalised setting of a synagogue but in our own homes, with family and friends, for eight days. Yes, there is ritual — what could be more of a ritual than the Seder? — but every Jew and every Jewish family has their own particular variation on that ritual. Pesach is, however, above all a contemporary festival. We look at the present — and future — in the context of the past, and ponder how we react to today’s world. Which is why, when we wish all our readers Chag Sameach, we also wish you an argumentative Pesach — in the fullest and most uplifting sense of the word.