Passover’s Enduring Message of Freedom

On Monday, millions of children will ask their parents: Why is tonight different from all other nights of the year?

Children asking this question in Jewish homes around the world will be told that the Passover festival commemorates the liberation of their people from enslavement in Egypt and celebrates the civilization that emerged from that breakout into independence. Families gathered at an orchestrated meal—the Seder—will begin the story by tasting the bitterness of subjection, make their way through debates over interpretations of the event, and culminate in joyful and occasionally (after the designated four cups of wine) raucous song.

We were never to forget that our timely exit from Europe coincided with the loss of several million others like us. Every year, we include in our family reading of the Haggadah a postwar insert circulated by the Canadian Jewish Congress honoring both those who perished at the hands of the Nazis and those who went down fighting:

"On the first day of Passover the remnants in the Ghetto of Warsaw rose up against the adversary, even as in the days of Judah the Maccabee. 'They were lovely and pleasant in their lives, and in their death they were not divided' [2 Samuel 1:23], and they brought redemption to the name of Israel through all the world."

This tribute concludes with one of Maimonides's 13 principles of faith: "I believe with perfect faith in the coming of the messiah—and though he tarry, yet I believe." Participants in our Seder traditionally differ in how deeply they linger over the tarrying and how fervently over the belief....

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