Nobel Prize Laureate Isaac Bashevis Singer said, “When a day passes, it is no longer there. What remains of it? Nothing more than a story. If stories weren’t told and books weren’t written, human beings would live like beasts, only for a day. The whole world, all human life, is one long story.” (Zlatah the Goat)
On Passover Eve, we gather around the dinner table to tell the story of the exodus from Egypt. We quote scripture, pose riddles, sing songs and eat food that is meant to remind us of the bitterness of slavery and the sweetness of freedom. We are enjoined, to see ourselves as if “we personally went forth from Egypt” and that we were redeemed by the mighty hand of God from slavery.
To what end do we go to so much trouble? Telling the story of the exodus reminds us not only where we come from, but also where we are going and how we are to live in the present. It is a powerful reminder not to be too proud and to be vigilant in helping those who are less fortunate than we are. We are commanded in the Five Books of Moses to show kindness to the stranger in our midst no less than 36 times because “you were strangers in the land of Egypt.”
There are those who would like to view the worldwide refugee crisis as a political issue. It seems to me that for Jews, Christians and Moslems this is primarily a moral and spiritual issue. We may disagree on the solutions but there is no question that our faiths call on us to care for those who are helpless and oppressed.
We all have a story to tell. Passover is the time of year when we come together not only to share our communal stories but also tell our personal stories. In telling our stories we are reminded of our connections to our family, our community and to God. Stories can inspire and challenge us to live a life of responsibility and activism, caring for those in need.
Wishes all of you a joyous holy season, whether you are celebrating Passover or Easter.
Greenspan is a spirtual leader for the Oceanside Jewish Center.