Column: Are We Still Slaves?

Column: Are We Still Slaves?

This Friday evening, April 6, Jews the world over will be celebrating the first night of Passover with a traditional meal called the "Seder." A ritual celebrated every year commemorating the Jewish people's exodus from Egypt 3,323 years ago.

Our ancestor's miraculous journey from oppression to freedom has served as a source of inspiration for many, including our own founding fathers. In fact, the first design for the official seal of the United States - suggested by Benjamin Franklin, depicted the Jews crossing the Red Sea. The motto around the seal read: "Resistance to Tyrants is Obedience to God."

A highlight of the Seder is the asking of the Four Questions. I, however, find myself year-after-year asking this question: what meaning does this ancient story and its associated ceremony hold for the average American in 2012? How can we look at events which transpired so long ago and still be spiritually inspired by them?

The answer lies in the Talmudic dictum: "In every generation a person must feel as if they were liberated from Egypt." In other words, we have a responsibility to make this ancient tale regarding the escape from Pharaohs bondage important to us living today in modernity. We achieve this by recognizing, that the imprisonment from which the ancient Hebrews sought emancipation is, conceptually, still present.

Slavery finds many forms and takes on various guises. In days of old, it was depicted by a whip toting task-master hovering over a slave with a chain wrapped around his ankle. Today, it can be found, for example, in our addiction to a certain negative trait or tendency, and our excruciatingly difficult experience in trying to "break free."

Perhaps it is being enslaved to things material, not being able to possibly fathom life without them. Are these not the modern-day equivalent of slavery?

Therefore, every year as we begin the holiday of Passover and the celebration of freedom, we are reminded that the stories we recount and the rituals we observe are as much about a commitment to the present as it is reminiscing about the past.

During this time of year we once again reaffirm our vow to fight all forms of bigotry and slavery, be they within or without. And, importantly, we pledge to devote ourselves to being positive members of society at a time when we all crave the most priceless blessing of all: peace on earth.