On Pesach, we use stories and ritual to remember and retell the narrative of our collective liberation. We share the ancient Exodus story, year after year, so that it resonates through the generations as a narrative of deliverance from slavery to freedom. This is the Jewish people’s foundational story. But why is it so? Why is this story so significant that the Torah enjoins us to remember the exodus not only on Pesach, but every day of our lives. The Torah says that we should eat matza (unleavened bread) to remember how we departed from Egypt hurriedly, “so that you will remember the day when you left Egypt all the days of your life.”
Why the allusion to the exodus time and time again? Why do we have to remember it every day? Because the story of the exodus is the ultimate story of liberation, one that remains a powerful, archetypal symbol of hope and freedom for all time for those who suffer from oppression and despair.
Rabbi Jonathan Sacks puts it this way:
Pesach is the oldest and most transformative story of hope ever told. It tells of how an otherwise undistinguished group of salves found their way to freedom from the greatest and longest-loved empire of their time, indeed of any time. It tells the revolutionary story of how the supreme Power intervened in history to liberate the supremely powerless. It is a story of the defeat of probability by the force of possibility. It defines what it is to be a Jew: a living symbol of hope.
The Jewish people’s liberation story inspires hope, not only as it relates to unshackling ourselves from the bonds of political oppression, but from our internal demons as well. These obstacles, whether caused by environmental conditions or some form of psychological trauma or difficulty, may hold us back from affirming who we really are as Jews. It is a truth of life that we all suffer from our own personal, internal tribulations from which we continually seek release.
On Pesach, we remember the freedom gained for the Jewish nation thousands of years ago and also assert the possibility of hope for our own personal freedom. Pesach is the supreme opportunity to explore what freedom means to us on an individual level. On Pesach, we can unfetter the chains that hold us back and explore the true meaning of what it means to live fully as a Jew. That is the mission of NCSY— to inspire hope in our teens and their families to live their lives as Jews in full appreciation for our unique history and the personal meaning that it holds for us today, every day of our lives.