Freedom, then and now
At its essence, Passover, which begins at sundown Friday, is all about freedom.
It’s not about Moses, who is basically omitted from the hagada. In a way, it isn’t even about God — more like the freedom to worship God.
Freedom is taken so seriously, in fact, that the hagada instructs each person to regard him or herself as being personally liberated from Egypt.
The message is clear: Never take your freedom lightly. Guard it jealously; defend it vigorously.
Perhaps we’ve learned that lesson too well in America, where on the campaign trail and in the courtrooms, the pursuit of freedom feels more like a war than a quest.
Ask those on the political left and right in America what they’re fighting for, and they will tell you — in so many words — freedom, but two versions of freedom that bear no resemblance to one another. Conservatives want freedom from what they see as the tyranny of big government; liberals seek freedom from what they see as a corporate, survival-of-the-fittest tyranny.
There are those who want to be free not to buy health insurance, and others who want to be free from the cost of debilitating illness.
Some want the kind of freedom that comes from civil liberties; others, the kind of freedom that comes with security and order.
Most everyone wants to be free from a nuclear-armed Iran, but disagree vehemently on how to achieve that freedom. Should we bomb or continue to apply nonviolent pressure?
Clearly, the freedoms that make headlines today are different than those that inspired Israel to follow Moses out of Egypt.
The question today is how to achieve freedom for all, when the country is split down the middle as to what freedom looks like?
We don’t have the answer, though this is certainly the season to seek it.
But this we believe: Freedom will be unobtainable in our time if we treat those who disagree with us as our enemies. Gridding America into we/they political camps is the exact opposite of freedom; it is self-imposed imprisonment.
At this Passover season, it’s time for Republicans and Democrats, conservatives and liberals, to think more about common ground than political advantage. However difficult that is, it’s the only way to find a freedom that fits all.
Israel had a similar problem in the wilderness. They fought with each other, split into camps, considered turning back. In the end though, they crossed the Jordan as one nation.
Can we do the same?