2011-04-18

Freedom, the Half-Won Blessing (Passover 1)

"Bring out the festal bread and sing songs of freedom."

Passover begins at sundown on Monday April 18. The celebration of freedom continues eight days, through the evening of Tuesday April 26. The first two days and the last two days are full-fledged holidays: the middle four days are semi-festive.

The first two days commemorate the 10th plague, when the mystery beyond naming killed all the firstborn of Egypt, but passed over the Israelites: hence Passover. At this, Pharaoh released the Israelites from bondage. They immediately fled. Pharaoh changed his mind and went chasing after them. A week later came the episode of the parting of the Red Sea, commemorated the last two days of Passover.

Celebrate, then, and reflect on the blessing of freedom. In parts of the world, full-scale slavery is still going on. If you are reading this blog, you probably are not enslaved in that full-scale way, and never have been. Even so, I would guess that there has been a metaphorical land of Egypt in your past in which you were bound and from which you now are free. Bring out the festal bread, and sing songs of freedom.

Yet freedom is the half-won blessing. Modern pharaohs live unchallenged. Chains still there are to break, metal or subtle-made. Resentments, small or large, bind us. A further Exodus awaits us still. And further truth, bright as a burning bush, cries to become known. We (we who are not under an unrelenting grind of oppression, nor consumed wholly with mere survival) stand midway between full-scale slavery and full-scale liberation. The unfinished work of freedom lies before us. So bring out the festal bread and sing songs of freedom.