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The Season of Freedom

This weekend, at dinner tables around the world, Jews and their loved ones will sit together and reenact one of history’s earliest recorded struggles for human rights, the Exodus from Egypt. No Jewish ritual is more ancient, more widely honored or more relevant today.

In telling the story of their ancestors’ flight to freedom, celebrants will be prompted to consider other freedom struggles in other times and places. The traditional Passover ceremony contains references to the Jewish uprising against Rome and veiled allusions to later incidents of martyrdom and struggle. Most families add extra readings on the Holocaust, the birth of Israel and contemporary freedom struggles here and around the world. The struggle continues in every generation, the Seder ritual reminds us. That is the soaring message of Passover.

Every version includes one more element: a ritual spilling of wine, symbolically reducing our joy in memory of Pharaoh’s soldiers and others we fought and vanquished. We wished for our freedom, we remind ourselves, but we did not wish for their destruction. That, too, is part of Passover’s essential truth.

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