Passover is the time when we sit around the table with our families to thank God for redeeming us from slavery and making us free. We give praise for the gift that He bestowed upon us by making us His bride; a nation unto God.
In a certain sense it was easy for that first generation of Jews in Egypt. They looked back at the dark days of slavery under Pharaoh and they looked forward to days flooded with light as servants of God. But for us; who have the perspective of history, it is perhaps more difficult. Looking back at our blood-soaked past what kind of freedom do we see? Is it freedom to be locked into ghettoes? Being the chosen nation cost us dearly. We were consistently denied our civil liberties, robbed of our possessions and often enough it cost us our lives. What are we thanking for?
In order to answer this question we need a different perspective on freedom, a different perspective on our status as a chosen nation and a different perspective on life. And it is by absorbing the lesson of the Passover lamb that we can acquire this new perspective.
The offering of an animal as a sacrifice to God embodies a deep and powerful lesson. The body of the animal is utterly destroyed. It is consumed by the worshipers who eat its meat and by the fires of the altar. What remains from the lamb is the relationship with God that is renewed through the offering.
The lesson is this. Anything and everything that we share with the animal is ephemeral and transient. We are more than happy to give up the animal side of ourselves for the sake of coming closer to God. We are not interested in a freedom that an animal can appreciate. The freedom that we yearn for and the freedom that we were eternally granted by God is the freedom to be people, the freedom to live the ideals of justice charity and holiness and these can never be taken away from us.
The tragedy that the Jewish people suffered in the holocaust was unimaginable. But the freedom that they were granted when God took them out of Egypt spared them from a far greater tragedy. As God’s chosen people we were spared the tragedy of becoming animals. The beastly spirit which brought people to murder little children did not overtake us. The darkness that induced people to be saturated with hatred did not blacken our souls. When those around us were enslaved to the animalistic side of nature we remained free to serve God with our humanity.
It is for this freedom that we thank.
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Yisroel C. Blumenthal