Why Is Tonight Different From All Other Nights?

2 min read
Abigail Zamir, Citizen Café Hebrew teacher
Abigail Zamir, Citizen Café Hebrew teacher

Why Is Tonight Different From All Other Nights? – ?מה נשתנה הלילה הזה

Nelson Mandela once said, “To be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.” This Passover, we have felt stronger than ever the absolute necessity of being mentally and physically free. We cannot truly celebrate and rejoice before the return of the hostages חטופים (chah-too-feem) held in Gaza. On Passover eve, we are guided to see ourselves as if we had personally left Egypt in order to appreciate freedom חופש (choh-fehsh),  and not take it for granted. We are also asked to continually remember how hard it is to be a foreigner in another country.

Captivity שבי (sheh-vee) is probably the clearest example of taking away someone’s freedom, but there are subtler examples in our everyday lives. Coercion כפיה (kfee-yah) in the workplace for instance, forcing employees to do something they’re unwilling to do. Bullying בריונות (beer-yoh-noot) at school, taking advantage of someone younger or weaker. Being in a toxic relationship קשר (keh-shehr), one that doesn’t allow a person to go wherever they want or meet whoever they wish. These examples are somehow more nuanced and transparent, but it is our job to keep an eye out and see if it’s happening to someone in our vicinity. 

The Passover “Seder” revolves around reading the Haggadah (a Jewish text that tells the story of god bringing the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt), eating Matzah, which is basically cardboard with holes (sorry mom), and searching for the Afikoman if you’re one of the grandchildren (yes, I still participate well into my twenties. Sue me). The Afikoman is a piece of Matzah wrapped in white cloth that is hidden somewhere around the house. Whoever finds it gets a prize פרס (prahs) and better yet, a chance to humiliate their siblings and cousins. This year we’ve decided to pass on the מרור (mah-rohr), the bitter horseradish we eat in commemoration of our ancestors’ slavery, since we’ve had enough bitterness this year. We sang songs and watched our uncle drink one too many glasses of red wine.     

So how is tonight, Passover of 2024, different from all other nights? Well, to be honest, it can be very much the same. It is up to us to spend quality time with our family and friends, to really check in with them, and to put our phones aside along with social media and work-related emails. Reality has proven to us that our time is precious, and nothing in life is as sacred as the relationships we make. Happy Passover חג פסח שמח (chahg peh-sahch shah-meh-ahch)


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