Exodus

The mood is ecumenical at a Seder I frequent, with a Haggadah featuring the words of Martin Luther King Jr. as well as Torah scholars. It resembles a Quaker meeting. Guests are encouraged to depart from the Haggadah to add personal commentary. This year I was moved tell a story I’d heard from cousin Andre on a visit to the small Georgia town where my father was born and raised.

Andre says he remembers walking around town with his grandfather and noticing that the older man, who surely understood that violence underpinned Jim Crow, never looked a white person in the eye and addressed white men of all ages as "boss." Now Andre, back after college and working 25 years for the federal government in DC, busies himself on the town planning commission and education foundation. He told me about a mayor who was in the habit of accusing him of arguing.

"I'm not arguing," Andre would respond. "I'm just disagreeing with you. You're not used to a black man disagreeing with you."

I asked Andre: "Has the mayor matured?"

"Oh, he's dead," Andre said without rancor. The old  mayor was in his 70s and had changed as much as he was going to.  Andre described the new mayor as in his 40s and progressive, a man he can work with well.

Passover’s story speaks to us all. The Jews are oppressed people anywhere. Pharaoh is injustice everywhere. 

Andre had his Exodus. Now he's back, carrying his liberation with him. Part of his freedom is that he has no need for vengeful thinking.