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Alex Braver

“No, no no, on Pesah, we’re all royalty!” My friend said, and – reaching over to stop me from pouring my own wine – took the bottle from my hand and poured me a full glass. Quickly catching on, I grabbed the bottle and returned the favor, filling my friend’s cup to the brim.

My friend’s custom – that on Passover, we don’t serve ourselves – is one of the many reminders in the seder that we are no longer slaves; we recline (or just eat with a nice soft pillow supporting our backs), we eat and drink, and we recount our mythic journey to freedom. And there’s something especially symbolic of freedom in having food and drink appear before you whenever you ask. Being served is a sure way to know that you’re not a servant. But at the same time, this particular tradition is a little hypocritical; by refusing to serve myself, I’m turning my fellow seder-guests into my servants, and they’re doing the same thing to me!

Ultimately, though, true freedom requires an acknowledgement of our interdependence. It means learning to both serve and be served, to give and receive. Too often, I’ve found myself enslaved to my own pride, refusing to accept the help and support of friends and loved ones, out of a desire to remain “free” from obligation or a sense of inferiority.

For your seder table, make a pact that everyone present is royalty, and no one needs to serve themselves. All anyone has to do is ask. But beforehand, do the spiritual work of cleaning out your inner pride, along with anything else that might prevent you from asking your fellow free people for help.

Alex Braver
BJ Rabbinic Fellow