Passover and the Power of a Narrative
The story of Passover, specifically the narrative of the Exodus, is well known throughout western civilization and the world. In the coming days, Seders will retell the liberation of the Hebrews from enslavement under the Pharoh – the Exodus. To fully celebrate Passover, we retell this story every year to remind ourselves that “we were once slaves in Egypt” and that while today we are free, there are those who still experience oppression. The retelling of the Exodus has been the inspiration for so many important people, movements, and changes in human history. Notable influences of the story of the Exodus include the Civil Rights movement, the founding of the U.S., the Soviet Jewry Movement, and the founding of the modern State of Israel.
Yuval Noah Harari is an Israeli historian, intellectual, and bestselling author of the book Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind. Harari has a lot to say about the power of narratives. According to Harari, the ability to craft a narrative, especially collective narratives, is what sets humans apart from animals. The creation of these stories allows humans to convince themselves and other humans to share a set of values, give a framework to their world, or work towards a common goal. The portrayal of history is something to be handled with care, as it can have a profound effect both positive and negative.
Passover allows us an opportunity to examine the stories that are part of our lives today – personally, communally, and globally. It’s clear that the story of Passover has been used for powerful change. For many American Jews, we are watching the current circumstances in Israel unfold with extreme attentiveness. Eventually, there will be history that is created from this collection of events. In this time of Passover, we can only hope that stories from our past can inspire unity, compassion, and compromise, and therefore guide us to create a narrative that is for all, not just a few.