How do we celebrate our independence as Americans? Well, on July 4, we get the day off from work, we often get together for a barbeque, share an adult beverage, maybe even participate in a Fourth of July parade, and finish our day with Fireworks by Grucci. We wear our American flag t-shirts from Old Navy, or some combination of red, white, and blue, and the next day we go back to our normal routines. The next time we’ll revisit our American independence is the next July 4th.
How do we celebrate our independence as Jews? Well, on the night of the 15th of Nisan, we often get together for a meal that includes roasted meat, we share four cups of adult beverages (wine, not beer), we may participate in a parade around the dining room table to act out the Exodus, and finish our day by singing songs (without the fireworks). We wear nice clothes to celebrate the festival, but we won’t return to our normal routines the next day. In fact, in the Diaspora, we do it all over again. And by eating matzah, we’ll do it all week. In fact, we’ll revisit our independence as Jews on several other holidays during the Jewish year. And every week, on Shabbat. And twice a day every day, for that matter, when we recite the Shema. And don’t forget the life cycle moments, or other opportunities to perform mitzvot, when we are told to be mindful of our independence.
Isn’t this overkill? No, says Rabbi Abraham Twerski in his haggadah, From Bondage to Freedom. For while we became a nation in the political sense, the Exodus is a much more significant experience than can be captured with patriotic rituals and songs. Our historical memory of the Exodus is not only activated on Pesah, and there’s a reason for that. On Shabbat morning, the last Shabbat before Pesah known as Shabbat Hagadol, we’ll look at this core Jewish concept and use it to prepare us not only for the festival, but for the lived experience of Jewishness each and every day.
Wishing you a Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi David Wise