EDISON, NJ - Passover or Pesach? It says Passover at the stores, but people also seem to be discussing this Jewish holiday called Pesach that began this Friday night.
They are one and the same, though the names mean different things. The name Passover comes from the angel of death ‘passing over’ the homes of the Israelites in ancient Egypt during the tenth plague which would guarantee Egypt’s release of the Israelites towards freedom, whereas the name Pesach is the Hebrew term for the festive pascal lamb offering.
What is Passover/Pesach about? The answer is quite simple. This festival is a festival of freedom. We eat unleavened bread called Matzah, also known as the bread of affliction, to remind us that we, the Jewish people, come from the most humble of origins. We were all slaves, and we are commanded to imagine as though we ourselves made it out of Egypt. Not our ancestors, but us, to ensure that this message becomes personal. We were saved by divine grace and brought to freedom, and so we celebrate.
Celebration is not everything though. Retelling the story of Passover every year at the seder meal is not just for fun; it is to make sure that we remember that just because we are free does not mean that we do not know what it means to be enslaved, and that just because we are free does not mean that everyone else in this world shares the same privilege.
Passover fosters gratitude for the freedom with which we are blessed, but it implores us to fight for freedom for all others in this world who still suffer under the hands of tyrants.
This Passover/Pesach season, find time to celebrate, and make time to bring justice to the oppressed.
Editor’s Note: Rabbi David Vaisberg currently serves the congregation Temple Emanu-El in Edison and serves as Vice President of the Metuchen Edison Area Interfaith Clergy Association and Secretary of the Rabbinical Association of Middlesex County. Rabbi David Z. Vaisberg earned his Honours B.A. in Psychology from York University in 2006, while at the same time acting and doing construction work for Vanier College Productions and working as Cantorial Soloist and music teacher for Solel Congregation of Mississauga. Rabbi Vaisberg was ordained from Hebrew Union College - Jewish Institute of Religion's New York Campus in May 2012, where he was honoured to be a Mandel Fellow and earned alongside his Masters in Hebrew Letters (MAHL) a Masters in Religious Education (MARE).