GLIDE Voices is honoring Passover; we asked Rabbi Michael Lezak, what does Passover mean to you?
“Passover might be the best Jewish story, because it’s a story of hope. It’s a story of finding the deep courage to look head on at pain, to know that pain does not last forever. It can be transformed, can be transformed by God, or it can be transformed by human beings. We see it on a daily basis, how we at GLIDE transform people’s lives.
In the Torah, which is the Jewish Bible, we read many stories. One of the central stories there is about how the Israelites, the Jewish people, were enslaved in Egypt for over 400 years. They were enslaved by a series of leaders that were called Pharaoh. The Hebrew word for Egypt is Mizraim, and it means a narrow or squeezed place. When you are enslaved, you cannot make any choices, you are hurt physically, you have no time off. So, I think about that ‘being squeezed’ notion. I have never been enslaved, but mythically, my people have been, and every year at Passover we retell the story. We live the story. We eat the story. We share meals that make that story come to life.
Passover is an eight-day festival. We clean our houses fervently before. We take any leavened products, any baked goods out of the house and we only eat flat bread that we call matzo. Matzo is the bread of poverty in the Passover story book, which is called the Haggadah. It is the bread we eat for Passover because when we were running away from Pharaoh, we didn’t have time to let our bread rise. So, for eight days in a row, my kids, my family, and my community eat this bread that we ate when we were running out of Egypt. It is a reminder you came from brutality; your people were born out of an experience that forged you as a people, an experience that was brutal and intense.
36 times in the Torah, it says, ‘Remember, you were a stranger in a strange land.’ So, to my mind, it’s like, ‘Don’t ever forget you came from that horrific place,’ which fuels me into looking to people living in dire straits today and saying, ‘What can I do to help?’ And one of the main answers is GLIDE. GLIDE helps, as does the Jewish community. I want to be a part of that. I’m at GLIDE in many reasons because of the Passover story, because the force of grabbing liberation is a story I wanted to tell and wanted to be a part of.”
Rabbi Michael Lezak