Be open to strangers, for we once were one

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Toward the beginning of the Passover ritual, called a Seder, which is followed by a delicious meal, we lift up a piece of unleavened bread, called matza, and say, “This is the bread of the poor … let all who are hungry come and eat.”

We also speak of the Exodus of the children of Israel from Egypt, not as the experience of our ancestors, but as something that we are supposed to feel on our own skins as we say, “We were slaves unto Pharaoh in Egypt.”

The Torah teaches us that we must not oppress the stranger, because we were strangers in the land of Egypt. Thus, the Hebrew Bible and the Passover holiday teaches us empathy for our fellow human beings and our responsibility to help solve the problems of poverty and of the oppression of the weak, which have plagued humanity from time immemorial.

The Passover ritual also includes four cups of wine, one for each type of redemption with which God saved the Jewish people from their slavery and torment in Egypt. In reciting blessings over this wine and drinking it, we are inspired to have faith in God, in miracles and in a better tomorrow.

On behalf of the South Baldwin Jewish Center, I wish our community a very happy Passover. I also wish those celebrating the Easter holiday a very happy Easter. May God bless us all with happiness, family, health, good food, empathy for our fellow human beings, hope for the future, and faith that, just like in days of old, God is still watching over us and that miracles are still possible.

Rabbi Royi Shaffin is the spiritual leader of the South Baldwin Jewish Center.