The Torah describes the Israelites’ experience of the very first seder night, huddled in their homes, trying to eat a festive meal, even as death and terror stalked Egypt. One might have thought that that meal was the last meal of slavery, with freedom beginning when the Israelites left their homes and began the march to the Promised Land.
In fact, that is not true. The Israelites’ freedom actually began even earlier. Certainly, when they sprinkled the blood of the Paschal lamb on their doorposts, they sent the signal to their Egyptian neighbors that they were no longer afraid. That seder meal, eaten under less than ideal circumstances, hurriedly, with shoes on and bags packed, was the first meal of freedom.
It’s too soon to know when we will be able to emerge safely from our homes. It’s too soon to know the path that will take us to our promised lands. But what we do know is that this Passover is the beginning of a new era, the gateway to a new normal. The traditions and emotions of this less-than-ideal Passover will carry us forward. Perhaps they will even inspire new rituals and new excitement for next year’s seder. Like our ancestors, we can recognize that even in the midst of fear and frustration, there is already a taste of freedom.
Rabbi Joshua Heller is senior rabbi of Congregation B’nai Torah.