Passover, Freedom and Liberation

For Jewish people around the world Passover began on Monday April 22 and continues through Tuesday April 30. It is the annual observance of the story of the Exodus – the central story of Judaism. This is the story of the escape of the Hebrew people from Egypt, of their liberation from slavery thanks to the intervention of their god, of the beginning of a generation of wandering in a desert until finally arriving at “the gift of the land” – also from their god. In the Western world, this story is the foundation of our notions of social justice, solidarity, and the possibility of collective liberation from oppression and injustice.

Through thousands of years Jews have often observed and celebrated Passover in hard times, in contexts of ongoing oppression and injustice, in situations of danger.
This year the details are deeply complex and difficult, given the ongoing death and destruction in Gaza following a horrendous brutal attack on Jews. Centuries of enmity and injustice are present, exacerbated by decades of struggle between Palestinians and Israel. Few of us are unaware, or unconcerned about this reality.

As Unitarian Universalists, we have long promoted the ideals of freedom, primarily as the freedom of each individual to live, to thrive, to make their own choices. Sometimes we have joined that dedication with movements for collective freedom – for the freedom of groups and peoples from discrimination, oppression and worse. In recent years, with deeper theological reflection, UUs have come to realize that merely supporting “freedom” is not enough; that we are called to deeper commitments to creating possibilities of liberation from unjust systems and structures, by examining and helping to dismantle those structures – of racism, of genderism, of patriarchy, of anthropocentrism, to name only a few.

As always, we are called as religious people to learn more, to be less needful of our own comfort, to live in ways which contribute to collective liberation – therefore to meaningful freedom. For reflection, I share this poem by Rev. Julián Jamaica Soto (formerly Theresa), from their collection “Spilling the Light.”

To the people who have mistaken freedom for liberation

To be free, you must embrace
the breadth of your own existence
without apology, even if they try to take
it from you. You must know, not that you
can do whatever you want; you are not
a kudzu vine, eating entire hillsides for
the purpose of feeding your own lush life. You
must know instead, that inside you are entire
Universes—milky blue, magenta, and gold—
expanding. But to actually be free, you must
know and you must fight for the entire
Universes inside of everyone else.
Being free is not a license, but
A promise.