Miriam Feder home


Musings on Freedom

Don’t we Jews love Passover the best? Our Seder celebrates our departure from Egypt, our journey in the desert for forty years before we could enter the promised land of Israel. We mark this event not as some distant anniversary, but as if we were led personally from slavery to become free men, women and children in the land of promise and destiny, with all the trials and joys that might include. We are stripped away from the home and the community we knew—familiar, yet hard—and spun across the desert for a dream. Yes, it is a beautiful dream, but a difficult uncertain journey: the journey of the immigrant; the refugee; the alienated; the student; the soulful.

We rejoice in our liberation. We mourn the drowning of the oppressor armies sent to recapture us, just for a mite. We sit and recite the familiar stories and re-experience the events with our loved ones, our old friends, our new friends and the Stranger all over the world. We eat, we drink, we meet, we remember.

How might we offer a bit of patience to the simple son who asks—“what is this?” When we are children, this patience might seem impossible. Then we have children and undertake the task, learning the lessons all over again and for the first time, as we teach.

When we crawl out from our family’s protective shell we might be shocked at the many who have not yet encountered the measuring stick of Passover, or we might be those children ourselves. They do not even know how to ask—“what is this?” For them we must let this night flow full from our hearts so they can freely taste it and find inspiration in its universal and timeless message.

We redden with shame when we remember our disrespectful phase, so assertive in our alienation that we could not respect another’s devotion, caught in the cloak of the prideful wicked son. “What is this to you?” And so we own and enjoy our sentimentality, our traditionalism and even our sense of meaning. Perhaps we reach deep inside and out—to find love.

We are at our best, when we can—for a moment—suspend our judgments and be the wise sons and daughters who expand our table to include all these comers: the ignorant; the prideful; the uninformed and the stranger. Together we puzzle the days of our lives, and nights and days—or is it just the nights—reminded that to ponder, to wonder, to re-imagine and to offer time, food, laughter and acceptance, is answer enough.

Each spring we celebrate new-ness. We handle the egg, the lamb bone, and young greens. We identify with a new people, newly home in its new land, singing a new song and building a new life in freedom. We aspire to a world without bondage, joining hearts with those who suffer today. We long for so many freedoms: freedom from slavery; freedom from want; freedom from the tyrannies we impose upon each other and upon ourselves; freedom to celebrate a festival of freedom; freedom to be kind, to indulge, to listen, to love and to nurture; the freedom to know our own worth.

In the spirit of plunging forward towards a dream, I review the seeds I would nourish. I crave a place to be free from my quick complaint and criticism—slaveries I sometimes impose upon myself. In a tiny seed I might hear the wildest ravings of my heart; a freedom to yearn for the opportunity that may never be or the accomplishment that seems so unlikely. I won’t thin that start from my row of wishes. I’ll leave it grow a bit, meet the sun and hang from a stout stem although it drains away energy and looms a bit ridiculous. Perhaps it is impractical; maybe it’s even impossible.

How many weeks can it hang there before I begin to accommodate its awkwardness? They say it takes three weeks before habits are formed. Sometimes the body is faster still. Sometimes the mind is slow and heavy. When I’ve gone the three weeks, what should I do about this impossible bloom? Prune the bush and restore order? Or is there something that calls for my time, my thought, the air and the water? I’ve stepped out of my comfort zone, out of the invisible. I’ve written, edited, spoken, shouted, swirled and sung. The blossom is fine. Now, I’ll look again for the seed.