Leaving Egypt

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We were slaves in Egypt (avadim hayinu).

This yearly reminder at Passover is core to our Jewish memory and culture. The retelling of the exodus from Egypt reminds us of the bitterness of slavery, the journey to freedom, and how we became a Jewish nation.

Last summer, I attended a class in Jerusalem taught by Yossi Klein Halevi, best-selling author and senior fellow at the Shalom Hartman Institute. During the lecture, Halevi argued that by focusing on “avadim hayinu” we are actually missing the point of the story. Our story, that of the Jewish people, should focus on what we did when we left Egypt as individuals and as a people. That’s where our story begins.

And it is a story that we continue to write together to this day with each and every action we make and interaction we have. For example, this year:

By providing security for Jewish kids and adults, synagogues, and organizations, we write a story in which hate has no impact on vibrancy.

By supporting the Ethiopian child and adult that reunites with family in Israel, we write a story that enables them to reconnect their stories with ours.

By providing Jewish education to our children, we write a story that connects them to what has already been written and empowers them to add to our story.

By supporting the people of Israel who are torn and suffering from the lack of dialogue, understanding, and compromise today, we write a story that helps them see a day after the conflict.

By delivering hot, nutritious kosher meals and other essential services to Jewish Clevelanders who are housebound, we write a story that reflects our deep commitment to one another.

By providing warmth, shelter, and support for those suffering in and because of the war in Ukraine, we write a story where people know that they have not been forgotten and are not alone.

The Jewish people’s story is forever incomplete because it requires each of us today, as well as those who came before us and those who will follow, to write it.

During this Passover, let’s focus less on who we were (avadim hayinu) and explore who we have become, what we have created, our contribution to family, community, society, and our world.

Wishing you all a peaceful, meaningful Passover with family, friends, and community – and dayenu – that would be enough!

Shabbat Shalom and Chag Pesach Sameach,

Erika B. Rudin-Luria

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