By Jill Ross
This has most certainly been the winter of our discontent. A stock market in free fall, an economy in recession, sad political circuses in Illinois and Washington, and all exacerbated by the howling, bitter scream of a Midwestern winter. The bad things seem to mount and mount. Sometimes, it seems the dawn will never break this endless night.
Yet, every year, the days will lengthen, golden sunlight will grow warmer, the hazy green fuzz of early spring growth will appear. Every year, noisy, raucous Purim rocks through the community. Every year, God gives us the gift of Passover.
The Exodus is a seminal event, not only to Judaism, but to Western civilization. It marked one of the earliest attempts for religious freedom, for self-determination, for a chance to live with dignity. This one act from a small, tough, little group so many centuries ago was the keystone for much of what our culture would accomplish.
Do you wonder, ever, what the average people in the Exodus thought as they trekked along? To leave everyone and everything that they knew. To leave their land, their homes, their jobs, their familiar surroundings and follow leaders that they didn’t always agree with into uncharted and unknown territory was a tremendous act of faith. They left serfdom and slavery, and traveled towards a promised land. They walked from darkness into the light.
We can see this same journey in the histories of our own families. All of us can tell stories of grandparents and great-grandparents who left Russia, Poland, Germany, Romania, Ireland. Poor, uneducated, their lives crammed into cheap trunks, they sailed west on the hope of a better life. They were people who had the faith to leave the bitterness of Europe behind and travel to a golden land.
Our own lives reflect this journey, perhaps most tellingly at our Seder tables. The bright, little faces of our children have matured into young adults. The new, bright, little faces of our grandchildren shine around the table. The sadness of our own aging is mitigated by the promise and opportunities of their youth. Our own lives move towards the light of new generations.
Pendulums swing and gyres whirl and cycles spin. Times of strife are followed by times of peace. The bitterest of winters is followed by the gentlest of springs. God gives us Passover every year to remind us of the journey from the darkness to the light.
We wish everyone a good Passover. May God guide us to a brighter spring.
(Jill Ross is a member of the Jewish Federation of the Quad Cities.)