The holiday of Passover that many of us are eagerly anticipating is known by many names, each of which reflects a different dimension of what we will be celebrating. While we are usually more concerned with who may or may not be present at our seder table (finding the holiday a pretext for spending significant time with family and friends), if we focus on even one of the names by which the festival is known, our observance may become that much richer. Consider at least these three:
Hag HaPesah — The Festival of Passover (The Passover Offering). The most common, this name reminds us of the core element of what we are remembering, namely, that God “passed over” the house of the Hebrews when carrying out the 10th (and final) plague: the striking down of the Egyptian first born. The name reflects God’s steadfast presence … that God is there with us and for us, and will ensure that, in the end, history (“His story”) will read the way in which “He” wants it.
Hag HaMatzot — The Festival of Unleavened Bread. Familiar to most, this name reminds us of the unleavened bread our ancestors made, and ate, in haste when leaving Egypt. Though from the text it is very clear who enabled that generation to break the enslavement of their bondage (God!), still, the name reflects our ancestors’ faith in God: that they would risk the journey, making do with what they had (perhaps even less than they were used to, meager as it was), in order to receive the ultimate promise that had been offered to them.
Hag HaAviv — The Festival of Spring. Though probably not as familiar, this name reflects, as does the season itself, the opportunity with which we are presented (the same that our ancestors were given “on the other side of the sea”) for rebirth and renewal … for a fresh start and the restoration of a strengthened sense of our mission, vision and values.
So the names, separately, constitute a reflection of God’s faith in us, a reflection of our faith in God and a reflection of the hope that faith brings in its wake.
And together? Add those three names together and we come up with a fourth name for this festival: Z’man Heiruteinu — The Season of Our Freedom/Liberation, a name that, capturing as it does the essence of the story itself (that our ancestors were brought out from slavery to freedom — liberated/redeemed), reflects the hope and prayer that lies deep within our hearts and souls, that we too will find ourselves brought out from under the burdens that weigh us down, from between the narrow constraints which prevent us from moving forward freely, from the “Egypts of our day” as well.
Now, with all that said, I would like to make a suggestion. Whatever your seder might include liturgically, independent of which Haggadah you use, or how much of it you actually may or may not use, take a moment and ask those sitting around your table to discuss the following:
Of the names by which this festival is known, which means the most to you? Why?
What are the themes of this festival that resonate the most in your heart and soul?
What difference do you want your festival observance to make in the way you are living your life right now?
What will it take to help you feel that you too have been redeemed?
A rose by any other name may still be a rose. However, this festival, especially with the different names it’s known by, can enable us to become so much more … and find life itself transformed into what we are promised it still can (one day will!) be.
A happy and a kosher Pesah to all.