Passover is all about remembering and retelling, but not reliving, the story of a people on the run.
When we preserve the memories of a community as a community, we create new shared memories and deepen our connections to each other.
Passover is the story of Moses and the Jewish nation, and the multitudes who joined them, fleeing for their lives.
Refugees, we might call them.
Despite having been born in Egypt, the Jews were not considered Egyptians. It was as if they were permanently labeled foreigners.
Immigrants, we might call them.
The exodus, the evacuation, is the story of people seeking safety in a foreign land.
Those refugees, evacuees, wandered the Sinai for decades until reaching the Jordan River where Joshua led them across to a new land – and while the land had been promised to them, they were, once again, strangers in a foreign land.
Moses was not allowed to cross the Jordan River. Most sources say it was due to Moses having taken credit for something god did - getting water from a rock.
Other sources. Fewer and less verifiable sources have suggested that his passport noted that Moses was born in Egypt and that Customs & Border Patrol had a travel ban for those born in Egypt.
Regardless. During the Seder we remember that we, all of us, each and every one of us, were once strangers in a strange land. For many of us more than once.
It may have been a new country, a new state, a new school, a new house, a new city.
One Passover tradition is to open our doors to strangers, to wanderers, to those without a seat at the table.
And by doing so we recall how hard it can be to be that stranger and maybe by remembering and not reliving we embrace that powerful charge to open our doors.
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Elan Barnehama is at work on a new novel, NO SMALL WONDER, set in New York City against a background of the late 1960’s, and narrated by Zach who is looking for a revolution and instead finds friends. More at elanbarnehama.com