Thursday 2 April 2015

Retelling the Passover Story

This Friday evening marks the beginning of the eight days of Passover. We start the Passover (Pesach) with a special meal on the first two evenings called the Seder meal.

Photo curtesy of Bridget Blair from Thinking of the Days
During the Seder meal we retell the story from Exodus of the escape from slavery in Egypt. To hear Leicester's Rabbi Pink talk about this then please visit Radio Leicester. His interview is 1:45 mins into the programme.

I talked about it on my blog last year. I just reread that post and I’ve decided that, if we can retell the same story every year at the Seder table and it still has an effect on us, then my blog post from last year can stand a second telling because it’s still… no, sadly, it’s even more relevant today than it was last year.

This is a section from my last year’s post with only minor alterations:
We have to tell the story every year to help us remember. We eat bitter herbs so that we never forget the bitter times of slavery. We dip parsley into salt water so that we never forget the tears. Does it make it easier to bear, knowing that this happened not today but thousands of years ago?
Today is the anniversary of the liberation of Belsen in 1945. (This was correct last year. The Passover is determined by the Hebrew calendar. The actual date is 15th April.) When the soldiers arrived they were horrified to see piles of dead and rotting corpses and thousands of sick and starving prisoners. Does it make it easier to bear, knowing that this happened not today but 69 years ago? (70 years ago now.) 
Today in 1994 Rwandans were being massacred, not by the thousands but by the hundred-thousands. The massacres continued until mid-July. Does it make it easier to bear, knowing that this happened not today but over 20 years ago?
When I wrote that post there was headline news about the liberation of sex slaves locked in rooms in the UK. It doesn’t get any closer to home or contemporary than that and sadly the atrocities continue. There have been too many incidents to list, but I feel I have to mention the horrific Charlie Hebdo shootings. 

And yet we continue to retell the story of the Exodus in the hope that by remembering, it might mean that it is not repeated. Are we remembering in vain?

Do you think that it is important to remember the past, or should we only look to the future?

Update: While I was writing the above blog post the news was breaking that Islamist gunmen had shot dead 147 people at a college in Kenya. Tragic news. There is no end to it.