Passover 2017: Are We All Migrants Trying to Get Home?

Passover Table 2, by April Killingsworth, from under Creative Commons 2.0 license.
Passover Table 2, by April Killingsworth, from under Creative Commons 2.0 license.

In his new novel “Exit West:, Mohsin Hamid writes the “we are all migrants through time”. This line struck me as quite meaningful as our community celebrates Passover. It also struck me in a new way as I have become more conscious in this last year of the passage of time and the absolute inability of any of us to control it. And this passage of time is, to me, an underlying theme of the “seder”. We are all migrating, in a sense, on a journey that has a finite end. The reality of that “promised land”, of course, becomes more apparent as we age.
This migrant theme, of course, is more profound this year. Since last Passover, we have been overwhelmed by images of refugees from around the world who are on theme searching for peace, freedom and a very real “promised land”. These images have been profound and make the readings and themes of Passover quite real. A common thread continues to be that search for something better, some place that one can find refuge or peace. Those themes ring so true in each of our “seder” celebration. And, as usual, modern life adds new aspects to each ritual. This year we have ben asked to add readings and maybe a 5th cup in order raise awareness of the global refugee crises. We added the orange for GLBTQ awareness and Miriam’s Cup for awareness dealing with women’s issues.
But I always seem to return to the issue of time. Many us will sit down at that “seder” table and will have a split second flash of people who used to be at that table, but are no longer there physically. Have they been “replaced” by children and grandchildren or do those little ones carry on the dreams and hopes of those who have passed? Time! We really all are just migrants on our journey. That symbolism of the wandering in the wilderness is quite real as we cannot help but think of our own life’s journey and out own search for our own promised land. Every year we recite the traditional rituals and prayers and mark another milepost on that journey.
And what of that “promised land?” I am often reminded of Alvin Fine’s “Birth Is A Beginning” poem that many of us know. In our search for our own land or sense of promise, we know, especially as we age, of that phrase that each stage of our life feels that tension between forces in life that reach us. It is that “push-pull” between life and death, sickness and health, offense to forgiveness; and all of it subject to the randomness of life itself. Passover really does help to drive these themes home for the story of the Exodus and the Wilderness is our story, each of us from that which enslaves us to that which makes us free if only we have the courage to act. The plagues of Egypt are, in many ways,symbolic of the plagues that hold us back from reaching our own fulfilled life.
So, as we gather to celebrate this most powerful of Jewish rituals, let us remember those who came before us, embrace those who will follow us and celebrate the freedom that we all have been given to search for our own promised self.
Have a sweet and healthy Passover
Rabbi Richard F. Address


  1. Kol HaKavod. Thanks for framing the “refugee” crisis in a cosmological, generational sense. Helps elevate Seder conversation out of the drudgery of Washington to a mystical appreciation of the cycles of time. דור הולך ודור בה והעולם לעולם עומד

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