Passover is unquestionably everyone’s favorite Jewish holiday. Well, not children, perhaps. They prefer the toys of Hannukah. But for me, there is not doubt. Passover wins hands down.
It reminds me of Thanksgiving in many important ways. It essentially takes place in the home with family and friends sitting around a large table. There is a central historical basis for the holiday. For Jews it is the liberation from slavery and the founding of the religion at Mount Sinai.
Our cultural memories of these events are forever forged by the film The Ten Commandments, and they are surprisingly close to the Biblical description of the events.
On a deeply profound level, this is a holiday of thanksgiving. For Jews it has always presented the dream of religious freedom from the incessant persecution which has been a historical reality. It represented the glimmer of hope, the dream of living as free individuals in a world which respects individual and group differences. The very fact that people could sit around a table and not fear their doors being broken down and brutally savaged is a cause for great thanksgiving.
Understand that freedom is not just about physical bondage. We are often slaves to our own misplaced desires–we don’t always comprehend how our obsessions and addictions [to drugs, money, material gain, prestige, objects] hold us captive as well. This was what the Buddha spoke of when he offered solutions to human suffering–releasing attachments and desires.
Being grateful implies the awareness that we can free ourselves from the bonds of psychological, physical and emotional bondage. Gratitude is a choice, one which can bring instant peace in a sea of chaos. Be grateful for what makes you uncomfortable, sad or distressed as well. These are opportunities to learn and grow. And be grateful for the chance to experience this physical existence and to make good, compassionate and holy choices.
I am reminded of the quote by French Jesuit priest and paleontologist Pierre Teillard de Chardin–We are not human beings having a spiritual experience but spiritual beings having a human experience.
That human experience is also a product of free will, of choice. Be grateful that your soul chose to take this challenging journey because all choice is freedom.