You’ve probably seen the “How it Started, How it’s Going” meme on social media. For those of you who haven’t, here’s how it works: There are two posts. The first is a photo of how something (a relationship, a project, a recipe, etc.) looked when it commenced, the second is a photo of its current state. In a New York Times article, “‘How It Started…How It’s Going’ Explained,” Sandra Garcia writes “The basic concept is to show the passage of time through oppositional bookends.” It’s the social media trend du jour.
But as the biblical book of Ecclesiastes (called Kohelet in Hebrew) teaches, there is nothing new under the sun. As innovative as this popular meme might be, the desire to know where we come from and where we are headed is a deep and ancient human need.
While we have many opportunities in the Jewish calendar to reflect on the passage of time, none is more profound than the holiday of Passover. We tell our story not through two simple photos, but through a set of rituals, songs, narratives, and shared feasting known as the Passover Seder. We dedicate time to learning the story of the Israelite emancipation from Egyptian slavery, which is commonly understood as the moment when the Israelites transform from a group of individuals into a nation, united in their service to God and to each other.
But we don’t stop when we finish telling our stories from the past. Though millennia have passed between the ancient Exodus and our modern lives, each generation of Jews is commanded to see ourselves as having been redeemed from Egypt. We therefore take the opportunity to reflect on the concepts of freedom, justice, and identity in our own day, as well as our own responsibility to help the most vulnerable in our world. After all, the commandment repeated most frequently in the Torah — a whopping 36 times! — comes directly from the foundational Jewish experience of oppression: “You shall not oppress a stranger, for you know the soul of the stranger, having yourselves been strangers in the land of Egypt” (Exodus 23:9).
In order to enrich your Seder experience, a journey of exploration into “How It Started” and “How It’s Going,” for the Jewish people, we at JCP have created resources that can help you and your loved ones reflect this Passover:
- We asked community members to think about two questions related to the themes of Passover. You can find their thoughtful reflections here. Feel free to use them as discussion guides and conversation starters at your own Seders.
- If you’re interested in digging deeper into the story of Passover, I invite you to explore my compilation of five fascinating snapshots of the Torah narrative, each presenting an ethical issue that the biblical characters must face. You can access the texts and discussion questions here. Hopefully these questions will help you to think about the Passover story in new ways, and allow you to reflect on the moral choices we all make in our own lives.
- One of the most fun parts of the Passover Seder is the chance to sing together! If you’re looking for some inspiration, check out our Instagram Series where JCP team members share our favorite Passover songs. Feel free to play them at your own Seders and sing along!
- For great ideas for how to talk with your children about the themes of science and truth in the story of Passover, check out How We Talk About, a podcast co-hosted by our very own Hebrew School Director, Erin Beser, and Park Avenue Synagogue’s Hebrew School Director, Jennifer Stern Granowitz. In this special Passover episode, they explore meaningful and effective ways to discuss the themes and stories of the holiday with your children, especially those children (of all ages) who ask: “did the Exodus really happen”?
- For a phenomenal rendition of the Four Questions, take a look at this video of our HSP learners singing this classic Seder staple!
- Finally, please join me and the JCP community online for our Passover events taking place throughout the week.
I hope you enjoy this sacred opportunity to reflect on how our Jewish story began, where we find ourselves as a community, and what lies ahead. While we often say “Next Year in Jerusalem!” at the end of our Seders, I’ll also add my hope that we can celebrate together, “Next Year at JCP!”