Wednesday April 24, 2019
We are commanded to feel, over the course of our Seder, as if we, too, experienced the ravages of slavery and the redemptive power of liberation.
By Joshua Ratner and Jay Kornsgold
Originally published on The Jerusalem Post (jpost.com)
This past week, Jews throughout the world sat down at their dinner tables to celebrate Passover, recalling the miraculous story of our people’s escape from captivity and our flight to freedom.
The concept of slavery is, for our community, one rich in ritual and metaphorical import. We are commanded to feel, over the course of our Seder, as if we, too, experienced the ravages of slavery and the redemptive power of liberation.
The issue of slavery can sometimes feel remote, both temporally and geographically. Tragically, however, slavery not only persists but also has grown in scope to the extent that there are more people enslaved today – conservative estimates suggest at least 40 million people – than at any other time in human history. Men, women, and children perform forced labor or are exploited and trafficked for sex. Much of this slavery takes place in regions with highly repressive regimes and armed conflict. But slavery also takes place in the US, in the shadows of the very communities where we live.
We must commit, as Jews, to do everything in our power to eradicate the sin of slavery. “Love the stranger, for you were a stranger in the Land of Egypt,” is the most prevalent commandment in the Torah. And at our Seder tables, we recited: “we were slaves; now we are free” as we recalled the liberation from slavery as our people’s greatest miracle.
While our community prepared for Passover by scouring our kitchens, cleaning our households of any hametz, and cooking our favorite Passover recipes, the Rabbinical Assembly (the international association of 1,700 Conservative/Masorti rabbis) and our partners in the Conservative/Masorti movement announced its participation in an alliance of governments, civil society organizations and other faith groups committed to eradicating slavery within the next decade.
RA Members: Read the full letter pledging to end slavery in our day (you must be logged in to access this post)