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Quotations for Passover

Passover is, above everything, the commemoration of the great Deliverance—a deliverance which transformed a horde of slaves into a people. It is, then, Israel's birthday. From one point of view it is the greatest of all the historical festivals. No other brings the Israelite into such close touch with his people's past. No other so powerfully appeals to his historic sympathies. He is one, for the moment, with his ransomed fathers; he shares with them the proud consciousness of the free, the dignified sense of nationality that is beginning to stir in their hearts. He shares their glowing hopes, the sweet joy of newly recovered manhood. ~Morris Joseph, "Passover," Judaism as Creed and Life

As a young boy growing up near Boston, Massachusetts, I looked forward to two things every spring: Passover and opening day of baseball season. Two things that I loved more than anything were being with my family at the seders and being with 33,000 other Red Sox fans at Fenway Park.... My caring so deeply for the Red Sox is what taught me how to care for the Torah and other important things.... That caring also helped me to understand how God feels about us and how painful it must be for God to watch when we strike out. Loving the Red Sox also helped me to love other people. If the love of a sports team can bring so many different types of people together, simply because they happen to live near the same city, that teaches us that we're not that different after all. ~Joshua Hammerman, "The Red Sox Blow the Pennant on Simẖat Torah," I Have Some Questions About God, edited by Joel Lurie Grishaver, 2002

Among the many meals of the spiritual year, the evening meal of the Passover at which the father of the household gathers together all his family is the meal of meals.... From the very start the word "freedom" sheds its light upon it. The freedom of this meal at which all are equally free is expressed in a number of rites which "distinguish this night from all nights".... No one who is there in flesh shall be excluded in spirit. The freedom of a society is always the freedom of everyone who belongs to it.... The father of the family speaks, the household listens, and only in the further course of the evening is there more and more common independence until, in the songs of praise and the table songs of the second part of the meal, songs which float between divine mystery and the jesting mood begot by wine, the last shred of autocracy in the order of the meal dissolves into community. ~Franz Rosenzweig (1886–1929), translated from German by Francis C. Golffing

This is the significance of the Passover for the Israelite. But it has a message also for the conscience and the heart of all mankind.... God's protest against unrighteousness, whether individual or national. Wrong, it declares, may triumph for a time, but even though it be perpetrated by the strong on the weak, it will meet with its inevitable retribution at last.... This is a truth which mankind has still to lay to heart even in these days. The world is thousands of years older than it was when the first Passover was celebrated; but the lessons taught by the ancient Deliverance retain their original force. ~Morris Joseph, "Passover," Judaism as Creed and Life

Further, the Passover affirms the great truth that liberty is the inalienable right of every human being.... Pharaoh enslaved a whole race, and was chastised for his crime by the Divine Hand. But in thus intervening between the slave and his oppressor the Almighty fixed His canon against slavery for all time. He thereby declared that every human being has the right to the freedom which will enable him to develop to the utmost all the powers of body, of mind, of soul, with which God has endowed him; and that slavery, therefore, with its debasing effects upon the intellect and the character, is a sin against the laws of God himself. ~Morris Joseph, "Passover," Judaism as Creed and Life

[T]he main objective of the Seder, the first night of Passover, is to educate to freedom.... This is true freedom: Our ability to shape reality. We have the power to initiate, create and change reality rather than only react and survive it. How can we all educate our children to true freedom? Teach them not to look at reality as defining their acts but to look at their acts as defining reality.... That's education to freedom; that's the message of the Seder. ~Yaacov Cohen, "Can You Educate to Freedom?," 2014

The willingness to sacrifice is the prelude to freedom. The first step in the struggle to lift the yoke of bondage must be marked with the blood of idealism — of idealistic men and women who are willing to make the sacrifice that the realization of freedom requires. Liberty is not achieved by complacency; it is not won without suffering the scars of battle. It is accomplished by selflessness and sacrifice; it is won by courageous action. ~Alfred J. Kolatch (1916–2007), The Family Seder: A Traditional Passover Haggadah for the Modern Home, 1972

Grandmother Hannah comes to me at Pesach
and when I am lighting the sabbath candles.
The sweet wine in the cup has her breath....
a little winter no spring can melt.
~Marge Piercy, "A candle in a glass," Available Light, 1988

As for the bitter herbs.... To see everyone with tears coursing down their faces, laughing and gasping at the same time, is fun and also makes the point — bitter herbs must be really bitter to experience the suffering... ~Julia Neuberger, On Being Jewish, 1995

I once asked a little boy why he liked Passover the best of the Jewish festivals. He answered at once, "Because of the Cyder nights." He meant "Seder" nights, the first two evenings of the festivals, and I had expected that would be his answer. Then I asked him why he liked the Seder nights, and he replied, after thinking a minute, "Because I am allowed to stay up late." ~Aunt Naomi

The Seder is long, but delightful, and no matter how sleepy we feel at the end of it we are very happy. ~Aunt Naomi

For the meal so simple, so meagre, rallies about it as of yore the members of the family, and with them their enthusiasm for the ancient faith. The scattered, even the indifferent, answer to the call of the Passover. The Paschal rite still knits the hearts of Israel together, still fills them with the consciousness that they are one brotherhood. And under the magical influence of its simple emblems the past lives again, with all its griefs and joys, its humiliations and its triumphs; the heart swells with gratitude for the ever memorable Deliverance; it beats high with hope for the future of Israel. ~Morris Joseph, "Passover," Judaism as Creed and Life

Unleavened Bread... the emblem of the Israelites' suffering in Egypt and the symbol of the haste—that is, the joyous eagerness—which marked their departure. When we eat the Unleavened Bread on the Festival we, in a sense, eat the bread of sorrow with our toiling, suffering ancestors, and for the moment share the sorrow itself. ~Morris Joseph, "Passover," Judaism as Creed and Life

      As for the house, it is scrubbed to the tiniest mousehole before Passover, to avoid such dangers as even a forgotten cake crumb might cause.
      Passover dishes are probably the most interesting of any in the Jewish cuisine because of the lack of leaven and the resulting challenge to fine cooks.... Everything is doubly rich, as if to compensate for the lack of leaven...
      [W]oes are forgotten in the pleasures of the table, for if the Mosaic laws are rightly followed, no man need fear true poison in his belly, but only the results of his own gluttony.
      ~M.F.K. Fisher (1908–1992), "K is for Kosher," An Alphabet for Gourmets, 1949

[W]ith leaven banished from his house on the Passover, the Israelite is helped to realise the purifying and ennobling effects which redemption wrought for his ancestors. The demoralisation born of their servitude was at an end; the ransomed people went forth to a sane and wholesome life, to a life of brave and large ideals. ~Morris Joseph, "Passover," Judaism as Creed and Life

...proclaim liberty through all the land and unto all the inhabitants thereof... ~Leviticus 25:10

Pesach without children is like a cantor without a song, like an actor without any lines, or a storyteller without an audience. ~Joe Bobker, And You Thought There Were Only Four: 400 Questions to Make Your Seder Enlightening, Educational and Enjoyable, 2006

The Israelites were free not only from the degradation of bondage, but from its agony. They were safe from the taskmaster's cruel whip. They were delivered from the fetters of despair. This thought intensifies the effect of the Passover. We feel all the suffering of our dead ancestors. We share their burdens with them. But we hear too the fateful signal which proclaims that the hour of their redemption has struck; we march forth with them from the scenes of oppression in gladness and gratitude.... So indestructible is the effect wrought by these moving episodes of a bygone day! ~Morris Joseph, "Passover," Judaism as Creed and Life

Today, Passover is used as an opportunity to reflect on the things that plague our world, to seek justice for the still-oppressed and even to bring together multi-faiths family and friends under the common banner of universal freedom. ~"Passover 2011: The Unleavened Basics," Huffington Post, 2011

Today, Passover is a festival of freedom....Passover remains relevant and contemporary, while at the same time a ritual several thousand years old.... The content—at least some of it—is flexible and determined by the participants at specific celebrations. Thus, the holy day is still meaningful to younger generations, because it allows for creative input and participation. It breathes. ~Jack Santino, "Winter into Spring: Celebrating Rebirth and Renewal," All Around the Year: Holidays and Celebrations in American Life

There on the Seder table,
      In the quiet dining room,
      The symbols of the service
      Talked in the twilight gloom....
Then silence fell for a moment;
      But sweet as a bell's clear note,
      Came a voice that thrilled the twilight
      From the candlestick's hollow throat.
"I gleam for the Sabbath and feast days,
      The prayers o'er me never cease!
      I shine for the truth of Israel,
      And always I speak of peace!"
"Peace!" whispered the Seder symbols—
      "Gone are the sufferings and thrall!"
      And like a benediction
      Peace settled over all.
~Hadassah, "On the Seder Table," 1917

Take particular care of your books.... When you lend a book to any one, make a memorandum of it before it leaves your house, and when it is returned cancel the entry. Every Passover and Tabernacles call in all your books that are out on loan. ~Judah Ibn Tibbon, advice to son, quoted by Israel Abrahams, Jewish Life in the Middle Ages, 1919

To keep green, then, the memory of the Exodus was for the Israelite not only to keep his gratitude to his Divine Redeemer ever fresh, but to ratify again and again his covenant with his religion. ~Morris Joseph, "Passover," Judaism as Creed and Life

The religious act is done reverently and lovingly in gratitude for the ancient Redemption, and thus becomes a type of the deep religious emotion with which that memorable event ever fills the pious heart. ~Morris Joseph, "Passover," Judaism as Creed and Life

Bitter is wine, but it sweetens all bitterness. ~Moses Ibn Ezra

      The bread of freedom is a hard bread. The contrast between bread and matzo possibly points the contrast between the lush Nile civilization that the Jews left behind them on the first Passover and the gray rubbled desert in which they came into their identity....
      Leavening, then, would represent in this image the corruption of slave life. But the symbol has ramifications. The rabbis called the passions of man "the yeast in the dough." Leaven is a strange and pervasive substance. It is alive; it is immortal; it is impalpably everywhere in the air; it ferments grain into bread, and grapes into wine; it is the sour whitish paradigm of the stuff of life itself. For one week in the springtime, in the time of seeding and growth, when the Jews celebrate their independence, they cut all trace of leaven from their lives. No one has ever wholly accounted for this vibrant symbol.
      ~Herman Wouk, This Is My God

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