In a few days we will celebrate Passover, the holiday of freedom. Passover reminds us that the foundation of our lives, as set forth in Jewish tradition and culture for 3,000 years, is our freedom.
Freedom is a deep consciousness that is already formulated in the first commandment of the Torah: “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery” (Ex. 20:2) There is no God other than the one that brings us from slavery into freedom.
In the Mishna (Pesahim 10:1) it is said: “Even the poorest of our people will not eat until s/he reclines [at the seder table].” The Mishna proposes distinguishing between a person’s physical condition, as difficult as it may be, and a person’s consciousness and awareness of being free.
And the responsibility for this rests with the community; To allow every person, even those whose voices are not heard, the oppressed and the poor, those on the margins of society, to sit at the Seder table and be part of this special evening, which is all about freedom.
In Jewish culture, material wealth and physical strength are not a value and an end in themselves, and do not testify at all to spiritual strength, spiritual depth, and moral quality; such it is for the individual and for our nation/people.
In the next Israeli Knesset, there will be too few women, even fewer those who are not Jews, and apparently not enough of those who will fight for the rights of minorities and the freedom of every person to live in dignity according to her/his conscience and beliefs.
At the same time, in spite of current Knesset and government, it is important to remember that we live during the best time for liberal Judaism in Israel; for LGBT communities and on certain levels even for some of the minorities in Israel.
We will continue to educate in our little patch of Godliness here at Leo Baeck, where our foundations are based on human rights, Jewish culture and civil society. We are dedicated to welcoming everyone. We will educate towards the awareness of the individual’s right and obligation to interpret Jewish tradition as they see fit and to understand the values of pluralism and tolerance. Academic and achievement in life do not come in contradiction to a world of deep and deep spiritual values, but on the contrary, complement each other on the path to being a complete and free human being.
Wishing you all a Happy Passover
Rabbi Ofek Meir
Managing Director and Headmaster