It’s that time of year again! Pesach (commonly known as “Passover”), the most important of what seems to be hundreds of Jewish holidays that cover your calendar, is finally here again.
Passover is not only the most important of the Jewish holiday, it is also the most widely observed. It is not only a time of celebration, but also a time of remembrance. We remember the story of the ancient Israelites, held bondage in a strange land. In a nutshell, Moses is sent to Pharaoh, warning him that he must free the slaves. Pharaoh does not listen, and is met with ten plagues, the last of them being the death of all their first-born children, a plague that “passed over” the children of Israel.
The highlight of Passover is the Seder, a ritual family dinner to commemorate and educate. The Haggadah (which recounts the story of the Exodus) is recited, matzah is consumed, as well as bitter herbs (to remember the bitterness of bondage) and wine (to celebrate liberation). Ritualwell.org has now provided a beautiful way to incorporate the struggle of the LGBTQ community into the Seder ritual.
Don’t members of the LGBTQ go through their own unique Exodus? In most cases, we find ourselves in a state of bondage. The closet is our Egypt, we are enslaved by our own limitations. We are enslaved by fear of the reactions of our family, afraid even those who are the closest to us will reject us. We are enslaved by a society that shames us, a society that treats us like second-class citizens, denying us rights such as marriage. We are also the victim of “plagues.” We are plagued by the homophobic speech we hear, the careless remarks made by unknowing loved ones, and by the ever-present fear our secret will be discovered. Then we too, when ready, are given liberation. With strength and courage we “come out” of bondage, sharing our secret with those around us. Finally, we are free of the slavery that once haunted us.
“You shall neither wrong a stranger, nor oppress him: for you were strangers in the land of Egypt” (Exodus 22:21).
Passover is an occasion to celebrate, remember, and commemorate. We must never forget the struggle we each endured. Never forget when dealing with others that you too were once young and were once bound by a closet. Always celebrate your inner truth and your personal Exodus. Let your story be a beacon of hope for someone seeking liberation.