The LORD said, “I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering. So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land . . . .”—Exodus 3:7–8
This month marks one of the most ancient and holiest of Jewish celebrations, Pesach, or Passover. It is a celebration of God’s redemption of His people, Israel, from bondage, and freedom is a theme underlying the celebration. Please enjoy this collection of timeless devotions from my father, Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, on this sacred observance. – Yael Eckstein, President
Passover, or Pesach in Hebrew, commemorates the most influential event in Jewish history — the exodus of the people of Israel from bondage in Egypt. It was at that particular juncture some three thousand years ago that the national Jewish identity was shaped, and it was from this event that some of the most profound affirmations of the Jewish faith were drawn.
Primary among them is the notion that God is not some distant power, uninterested in His creation. No, the story of Passover affirms for Jewish people that God is present in human life, that He hears the cries of His people, and that He intervenes in human history to deliver His people from affliction and redeem them from oppression.
Through retelling the story of the Exodus and symbolically reliving the events we are to feel as if we ourselves were just delivered from Egyptian bondage. Judaism maintains that God’s act of liberation is not a one-time-only event, but an ongoing and repeated one. In the words of the Haggadah, the text we use during the seder meal to retell the Exodus story, “For God did not redeem our ancestors alone, but us, as well.”
Today, more and more Christians are celebrating the Passover holiday in their own way, motivated by a desire to reclaim the Jewish roots of their Christian faith and the Jewishness of Jesus. Certainly, the links between suffering and joy, death and resurrection, are familiar to both faith traditions. And Christians, like Jews, affirm that darkness will be followed by light, oppression by redemption, and death by resurrection.
So as Jews around the world celebrate Passover this month, I pray that we will take time to reflect upon the story of Exodus, of a people brought from slavery into freedom because of a God who cared so deeply about humankind that He intervened in human history to deliver them, and how that redemption story is played out in our own lives.