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This Night of Liberation

"On this night Israel was redeemed. On this night Israel is destined to be redeemed."

Idolatry is serving anything less than the Most High. Chaining ourselves to our idolatries is self-imposed slavery. We all have them.

Tonight Jews celebrate our freedom: 3,000 years ago in Egypt, and wherever we live today. We retell the story of our physical and spiritual enslavements, then and now.

Kansas just yesterday imposed a form of enslavement on the transexual citizens, our neighbors, denying the freedom to be themselves: to live according to their gender identities and their names. Our State Legislature attempts endlessly to control women's bodies, and only the vote of the people and the Supreme Court has guaranteed women's freedom. The denial of the right of healthcare to all, in the world's richest democracy, literally kills people and needlessly enslaves our neighbors to illnesses, like diabetes, for which there has long been a treatment. Slavery is cruel. That's why Jews worldwide gather tonight: to remind ourselves to oppose slavery in all of its physical forms wherever it exists.

Spiritual slavery afflicts us all. In Egypt Pharaoh made us physical slaves to a man. We tell the story of how God redeemed us so that we could choose to serve the Most High with our lives. Any other choice is not only unworthy, ultimately we will come to know we did not live the most satisfying lives possible.

Our self-imposed enslavements are personal, and this night we seek to look deep within to discover how we have chosen to dedicate our lives in part to unworthy goals. Wealth, power and beauty are the most common. Instead we might choose selfless service to lessen pain and suffering or to advance knowledge, to build institutions that will benefit humanity and leave an immortal imprint to benefit our world.

These are the genuine purposes of religion: to light the path forward so that our limited days are spent uplifting rather than tearing down.

We are sadly witnessing a political era in which the quest for power has rewarded the destruction of human beings. I pray we are on the cusp of change. Tonight, and this entire week, in our contemplation of physical and spiritual enslavements, may we discover a path forward that will liberate not only ourselves, but the images of God living near us whom we have not met, but to whose lives we are joined in the prophetic vision: "On that day the Lord shall be One and God's name One." (Zechariah 14:9)


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