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Passover: Telling our story


By Rabbi Rick Sherwin

Editor’s Note: Passover (Pesach) celebrates the deliverance of the Jewish people from slavery in Egypt. It began at sundown on April 19th (last Friday) and ended last night (Saturday, April 27th). 

 A few years ago, Congresswoman Stephanie Murphy, the first Vietnamese-American woman elected to Congress, attended our community’s Passover Seder. Congresswoman Murphy joyfully joined in singing Dayenu and welcoming Elijah.

Passover’s story takes us from the Hebrews’ narrow straits in Egypt to Elijah’s liberating vision of the world as it should be. Pharaoh did not care about Egypt, only about his own agenda for building cities at the cost of human hope. By telling the story, we understand that slavery – both physical and spiritual – ends with a sense of hopelessness. The end of the Passover story comes with crossing the sea and creating a life that flourishes in freedom.

Congresswoman Murphy identifies with the Passover story only too well. Her family fled Communist-controlled Vietnam in 1979 when she was six months old. After their boat ran out of fuel, they were rescued by the United States Navy. Ms. Murphy’s parents settled in Northern Virginia, where they worked both day and night jobs to support their family. Now she brings her story of hope to the halls of Congress.

Our own individual stories may pale in significance to our People’s story of the Exodus from Egypt or seem less dynamic than Congresswoman Murphy’s story of her family’s escape from Vietnam. Nevertheless, we know there is significance in our small personal stories of moving from the darkness of spirit to the light of hope.

Passover asks not Capital One’s question, “What’s in your wallet?” The holiday asks the Haggadah’s question, “What’s in your experience?

The message of Passover is to tell our stories.

Longtime Longwood resident Rabbi Rick Sherwin, a graduate of UCLA, was ordained by the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York. Rabbi Rick’s passion is filling spiritual services and interfaith educational programs with creativity, relevance, dialogue, and humor.