The Long Journey to Freedom
April 2022 Nissan 5782
At this time of challenge and possibility, we enter the new moon of the Hebrew month of Nissan. Spring brings sweet aromas and joyful purple and yellow buds bursting through the once frozen earth in our northern climates. How do we reconcile this re-emergence of new life with the desolation and desperation of those suffering through war and starvation? Can we receive with open arms the gifts of beauty and hope and also hold the awareness that all is not well on planet earth?
This month, in the celebration of Passover, we retell the story of our ancestors fleeing from slavery, leaving behind the landmarks and activities that filled their lives, wandering in the desert of the unknown, seeking freedom. Today, we see men, women and children in Ukraine dodging bombs and bullets, hiding in crumbling rubble, fleeing from a modern-day Pharaoh who rains plagues of fire and destruction on neighbors who refuse to submit to his demands.
Our wisdom tradition teaches that in Nissan, it is speech that can create healing. At this moment, President Volodymyr Zelensky’s voice is a clarion call to the world entreating us to wake up, to help his people maintain their freedom in the midst of the plague of invasion and chaos. Zelensky’s righteous anger is striking a visceral chord in senates and parliaments across the globe, inspiring politicians and citizens alike to rise in defense of democratic principles and values. He models courage and integrity to a beleaguered global community exhausted from its battle with the pandemic and still constricted with fear like the Israelites as they stood at the shore of the Red Sea.
Across the ages, as a human community, we have had the choice to follow the leaders whose voices gave wing to our highest aspirations or those who pandered to our fears. In these unsettled times, I find it critical to surround myself with voices of love and compassion, of encouragement and hope. Just today, I heard a 9-year-old Ukrainian girl singing in her native language, “Let it Go,” a song my granddaughter constantly sings from the Disney classic, Frozen.
Even in the most terrifying circumstances, we must nurture and hear the voices of hope and joy that can lead us to whatever version of the Promised Land we can envision. As we move into the spring, let each of us be the voice of hope and possibility to those around us who need our strength and courage.