Chag sameach

The Jewish Chronicle - - COMMENT -

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.

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