In the Jewish calendar we have just concluded celebrating a most central Holiday of the year, Passover.
Passover is a Biblical Holiday, meaning its observance was instructed by God to Moses in the Bible, and it has been observed by Jews ever since. Though the Passover story is detailed and lengthy, its main theme is about freedom from slavery. The Holiday commemorates the Children of Israel's wondrous exodus from Egyptian slavery, through the deliverance of God Almighty. The sorrow and hardship is not forgotten, the miracles and compassion of God are remembered, and He is praised and thanked.
One interesting thing about the Passover observance is the very first thing we do when commencing the Passover "Seder," or ritual meal. It is the "Kiddush," or the sanctification on the wine. This is a common Jewish practice done on all Holidays and each Sabbath, but, nonetheless, the question remains: how is this a fitting way to open the Passover celebrations?
The answer will be understood once we explain one further item, the difference between freedom and slavery. In today's world, and particularly in today's economy, it is not unusual for people to work excessive hours. I even met someone who told me he clocks more than 100 hours some weeks! But is it the "quantity" of time worked that determines whether it is "slavery." After all, slaves do work extreme hours.
Also, the intensity of the work often can tend to be extreme. People work not just very long hours, but very hard ones. This is true in both a physical context, where people actually do backbreaking labor, as well as in a mental context, where people mentally strain themselves to the extreme each day from their desks. So, is it the "intensity" of the time worked that determines the status as free or enslaved? After all, slave labor is of very high intensity.
Indeed, neither of these items determines whether one is free or enslaved. The determining point is the control over time. A slave may not ever stop working, unless the master grants permission. A free person may choose to work 100 hours a week, they may choose to work in very hard labor, but they also may choose to stop. A slave never has that choice, a slave has no control over their time.
The Kiddush prayer with which we open the Passover celebrations is translated as the "sanctification over wine." A more accurate description, however, would be the "sanctification over time." It is said in order to dedicate and sanctify special days of the year; with it we remember and make holy the holidays.
In the Passover celebrations, where we reenact and relive the exodus from Egypt, the redemption from bondage to freedom, we begin with the Kiddush. We remind ourselves of the most precious gift God has blessed us with-time. We remember that once we did not have mastery over it, and we pray for those who still today do not have freedom. We pause from our busy routines and give thanks for time and realize that there is no greater gift on Earth. With it, we have everything; without it, there is nothing worthwhile.
May God Almighty bless all of us to appreciate the blessing of time; may we merit to use it well and wisely. May we sanctify our time by using it for holy purposes such as spreading goodness and kindness, helping one another, spending time with friends and family, being involved in our communities. and, overall, participating in the continual project of Creation by making God's world a better place-one small step at a time. Amen
Rappeport is the Rabbi at Ohev Sholom Congregation in Williamsport.