This Friday night, Jewish people around the world will be celebrating the festival of Pesach or Passover in English. And it is truly a festival of celebration, but also one of reflection.
Because to me, there is no festival more important, more uplifting, more significant and more defining to the Jewish people than Pesach. 3500 years ago we were slaves in a foreign land. We had no power. We had no hope. We had no future. All we had was a promise made by a God we didn’t know to a guy called Abraham, the first Jew – a promise that lingered in our mind like a distant memory from a forgotten dream… something we could feel, but not quite grasp.
And as Moses led us out of slavery and into freedom, the world that we had known for generations, began to change. Suddenly, we were no longer slaves, but free people and the purpose of our existence that had once been lost had now been reclaimed.
But on that journey towards our Promised Land, the land of Israel, something happened that changed the course of Jewish history. Something occurred that meant the world we had known all our lives was now gone and our future was no longer predetermined and set, but was now open and free.
We became a people whose national identity became forged in the searing heat of the desert sands, branded into our national and generational soul.
Sometimes you look back at events from thousands of years ago and you wonder at their significance today. But for us, Pesach is the essence of being Jewish. We became a nation with a strong identity and a strong belief in ourselves – a belief that is as much relevant to us today as it was back then.
Because now, when our identity is threatened by so many who want to tell us that our history is false or fabricated, it is more important than ever to remember strongly who we are, where we came from and where we’re going.
But most important of all is that when we celebrate Pesach, we establish a virtual link through time from this year and whatever place we’re in to our desert ancestors thousands of years ago who spearheaded our freedom.
And for a moment, there is no past or future. There is no modern world or ancient world. There is only us, one people with one identity.