Pesach, a Story of Freedom in a Time of Captivity

April 19, 2024
Ruby Borer

Sydney, Australia

Class of 2024

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Pesach is traditionally a time where we imagine our lives within the story and the story within our lives, something that seems even more imperative in the climate that is a post-October 7 world. There are multiple elements of the Pesach Seder where the statements we make will not only be a retelling of an ancient story but a prayer for the world we find ourselves in. 

Every year we sing Ma Nishtana, and harp on the four questions, but this year, everyone has so many questions and the world around us is providing no real answers. One of these questions is “Why is this night different from all other nights?” and while Pescah Seders will not be different to the 6 months of melancholy and heartache around Jewish tables all across the world, this Pesach will feel very different from all others. Whether it be an extra chair at the seder table to symbolically invite a hostage and call to bring them home, or a more somber and realistic tone of voice as we scream let my people go, this Pesach speaks more than ever before. 

The rallying call of Pesach, “Let My People Go” has never meant more than it does today. When taught this part of the Pesach story as a three-year-old in preschool, the meaning of captivity went straight over my head. While growing up I believed that this cry would never be something that I could apply to my life, October 7 changed that forever. This year as we say “Let My People Go” we aren’t only talking about the slaves in Egypt but also the 133 innocent civilians who are still being held in captivity. This year ‘Let My People Go’ will be accompanied by the harrowing calls to “Bring them home” and end the past 6 months of trauma and suffering for both peoples. Bringing them home will be the fastest and most effective way of reaching a humanitarian ceasefire that pleases both people. 

A family favorite at my seder is Dayenu, a name directly translating to it “would have been enough” and in today’s world, many things would have and should have been enough, but never seem to be. While there is a multitude of beliefs surrounding whether we should be singing this song at this year's seder, the idea of it “would have been enough” speaks clearly to the intangible conflict occurring on social media. After months of social media battles and an exponential rise in antisemitism, many times it seems as though society should be able to recognize when enough is enough. This year singing Dayenu feels wrong as we still long for an end to this terrible conflict, but I truly believe that Dayenu, “It Would Have Been Enough” can be made into a song that speaks to our simple requests from non-Jewish friends and communities, it would have been enough for them to recognize the terror of October 7, it would have been enough of them to recognize Israel simultaneously has a legitimate claim to the land, it would have been enough for them to be there for their Jewish friends. 

For as long as I can remember, I have dreamt about this Pesach! The Pesach where I can finally leave a seder knowing that I will live up to the last line of the seder, L’shana Haba B’yerushalayim. But saying this line feels different this year, although my lifelong dream of spending my gap year in Israel has not been broken, looking to our homeland my heart says one thing but my brain says another. L'shana Haba B’yerushalayim speaks to the ancient tradition of pilgrimage but now more than ever it requires our community to recognize the challenges that lay ahead. I am someone who truly hugs and wrestles with Israel and while it is a country I love, I recognize the complexities and injustices of Israeli society always looking for ways to resolve the difficulties in Israeli society. So while my brain constantly talks about the danger and issues in Israeli society, my heart says something different and I truly cannot wait to go back there, to help rebuild Israeli society and lay formations for a peaceful future in every way that I can. 

The Pesach story like all other bible stories has a villain, but this year as we imagine ourselves in the story and the story within our lives, it is imperative that we are careful with whom we place villainhood on. It is essential that we recognize the injustices and sufferings of both Palestinian and Israeli people, and separate the extremist actions of both Hamas and the Israeli government from the innocent civilians who deserve leaders looking for peace. Both peoples have equal and dual legitimate claims to the land and if we refuse to recognize this, if we place villainhood on the wrong people, peace will truly never be achieved. We should all aim to use this Pesach as an opportunity to redefine the groupings of the conflict, changing them from racial ones to goal-motivated groups. Peace can only be achieved when like-minded people from both sides come together and choose to be pro-peace. 

Ruby Borer is a BBG living in Sydney, Australia who has a dog named Marshmello.

All views expressed on content written for The Shofar represent the opinions and thoughts of the individual authors. The author biography represents the author at the time in which they were in BBYO.

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