What does it really mean to observe Passover?
The answer is obvious. Observing Passover means to attend one or two seders. Observing Passover means to refrain from eating bread, pasta, and all the other foods prepared with the five prohibited grains.
Of course this is correct. But there is more to Passover than this. Much more.
On Passover, we name the ancient ten plagues and we name the modern plagues of our time. We talk about racism and discrimination, addiction and trafficking, inadequate care of the elderly and our veterans, the persistence of homelessness, poverty, and hunger. We look at the world as it is and dream of how it should be, of how God still wants it to be.
The purpose of Passover is to shake things up, to wake up ourselves from our apathy and our complacency with regard to the way things are. On Passover we rededicate ourselves to the struggle for freedom and equality, justice and peace for all humankind.
At our seders we lifted up the three pieces of matzah and recited the beautiful words, “Now we are slaves. Next year may we be free.” But Passover is not just about political freedom. Passover is also about spiritual freedom and psychological freedom. The truth is that everybody is enslaved to something. It could be a bad or harmful habit like smoking. It could be a negative mindset like living in the past.
The purpose of Passover is to free ourselves from one bad or harmful habit, to liberate ourselves from something to which we are enslaved, physically or emotionally. On Passover we turn the page and start a new chapter in our lives. We get out of our own way from achieving all our hopes and dreams.
At seders all over the world, the children gleefully found the afikoman. In the old days, you ransomed the afikoman with a dollar bill. Now it requires a $15 iTunes gift card to get back the afikoman! But the ritual of the afikoman is more than child’s play. Think about it. We break the matzah in two. We hide one piece. Then we search and find the second piece. We reunite the two pieces of matzah. What are we doing? That which was broken, we make whole again.
On Passover we find something that is broken in the world and we make it whole again. On Passover we find something that is broken in ourselves and we make that whole again too!
So what does it really mean to observe Passover? We have truly celebrated Passover when we challenge ourselves to care more and to do more. We have truly celebrated Passover when we commit ourselves to increase freedom and justice, equality and compassion in this world. We have truly celebrated Passover when we fix something that is broken in ourselves, when we make ourselves whole again.