By M. Alexander
Passover is one of the reasons I rejected Judaism. How can a religion that claims to be a proponent of equality simultaneously have at its cornerstone of freedom the murder of children? Instead of delving deeper, I turned away from Judaism as a holiday of hypocrisy.
But each year, I have re-examined a piece of the story, trying to find humanity within the brutality. This year, I am thinking about the cost of freedom. The old adage says, “Freedom isn’t free,” so the next logical question must be, “What does it cost?” In Exodus, the cost of freedom was, “blood, frogs, vermin, wild beasts, pestilence, boils, hail, locusts, darkness, the murder of children, and 40 years of wandering.”
Sure, the Israelites made sacrifices. They had to kill lambs that had been part of their family for 14 days. They had to leave the comforts of slavery. They had to walk through a really, really big desert. But this hardly seems to justify the cost. I’m all about punishing the guilty. Pharaoh deserved to experience pain, but the children of Egypt had done nothing wrong. Sure, they may have grown up to become the oppressors, but if Minority Report taught me anything, it’s that the future always involves elements of choice—these children could have grown up to be part of the abolitionist movement. If Judaism has taught me anything, it’s that it is never too late to make t’shuvah— these children could have rectified the mistakes of their fathers.
Maybe the cost of freedom was too great. Maybe, after the 9th Plague, God began to act out of ego rather than rationality. So, instead of treating Passover merely as a celebration of freedom, it may be more important to look at the piece that mandates that we mourn what we had to do to achieve it.