Today’s Passover message is written by Matthew Diller, Dean of Fordham Law School.

Dear Fordham Community,

Passover is a festival when Jews remember the bondage of the Jewish people under the pharaohs in Egypt and give thanks for our deliverance. Central to Passover is the Seder—a large feast on the first two nights of Passover at which participants read and recite the Haggadah, which recounts the story of Exodus laden with songs and rabbinic interpretations. During the eight days of Passover, observers of the holiday are forbidden to eat bread or other foods with yeast. Instead, the only grain products we may eat are made with matzoh, a cracker-like unleavened bread. The story goes that in escaping, the Jews did not have time to let bread rise before baking.

Passover is principally celebrated in homes, rather than in synagogues. It is a time when families gather. I have attended seders every year of my life. Growing up, we went to our cousins. Later, my mother hosted our seders. Now we gather either in my sister Wendy’s or our own home. In addition to matzoh, Passover has many special foods that vary across Jewish communities worldwide. Although the word seder literally means “order,” seders in my family are inflected with a certain amount of chaos—a relaxed informality reflecting the joy of being together.

Many have reflected on the larger messages of Passover, including its emphasis on passing down history through generations and the connection we bear to our ancestors. The holiday’s central theme focuses on liberation from oppression through the combined power of human action and divine intervention. It has inspired Jews and oppressed peoples through the centuries.

Philosopher Michael Walzer has identified three elements in the story of the Exodus that liberation movements have looked to through the centuries:

First, oppression has a starting place—a metaphoric Egypt; second, there is a better place—a world that is more just, where humanity is more fully realized; and third, the path to that place lies through the wilderness—a journey which tests our character and resolve.

Whether you celebrate Passover or not, I hope the spring brings joy to your family and progress to the cause of freedom.

Happy Passover,
Matthew Diller, Dean
Fordham Law School