As we gathered as a family around the seder table, celebrating Passover, we once again were reminded how fragile it is, this thing we call freedom.
There was solemnity as we re-told the story of the Jews exodus from more than 400 years of enslavement in Egypt, three thousand years ago. We experienced the symbols of that struggle through food, wine, words, and song, and often the room was filled with laughter.
We didn’t have to hide our celebration, as they did in Nazi Germany some eight decades ago, or in Ukraine today, where each day they are reminded of freedom’s fragility, and the price it demands to preserve it.
Each day, in all parts of the world, there is the struggle for freedom, even in America.
In Ukraine, the sirens and roar of bombs falling cannot deter hundreds, perhaps thousands of this country’s remaining Jews to recall this ultimate story of freedom and to relate it to their own struggle today.
One rabbi, it was reported, during the day buried a congregant, a victim of a Russian bullet, and prepared for that evening to celebrate at the seder.
In Odessa, the port city on the Black Sea, 110 Jews gather at a historic hotel, raising their glasses and “drink to live! Let’s drink to Passover. Let’s drink to Ukraine,” according to a USA Today story. “Their voices rise in familiar song, growing stronger as the community’s rabbi, Avraham Wolff, urges them on. Slowly, faces creased with worry light up with joy and, as the evening stretches on, more and more laughter.”
In Poland, nearly 80 years since Jews confined in Poland’s Warsaw ghetto staged an uprising against German troops, some Ukrainian refugees gather near the site for a Passover seder.
“The price of this freedom is so high … but not only will we have this freedom, but we’ll understand what freedom is for us. Because we paid too high a price.” a participant at the Odessa seder said, according to USA Today.
Passover lasts a week, and while in most households seders are held only the first two days, the dietary restrictions during this week continue to remind us of the importance of this holiday.
To me, there are few observances that are as important. Freedom is fragile, and it sometimes erodes quickly, or like a slow drip, slowly. We only miss it when it’s gone.