Let the redemptive power of water wash over you with this elemental meditation and playlist for PassoverPassover is a major Jewish holiday that commemorates the Jewish people's liberation from slavery and Exodus from Egypt. Its Hebrew name is Pesakh. Its name derives from the tenth plague, in which God "passed over" the homes of the Jewish firstborn, slaying only the Egyptian firstborn. Passover is celebrated for a week, and many diaspora Jews celebrate for eight days. The holiday begins at home at a seder meal and ritual the first (and sometimes second) night. Jews tell the story of the Exodus using a text called the haggadah, and eat specific food (matzah, maror, haroset, etc)..
Passover is a night for gathering, storytelling and remembrance, but it is also a chance to connect with the elemental forces that make up our bodies and shared history: fire, earth, air and water.
Through the bright flames of the burning bush, we feel the fierce, free power of God’s presence. This fire incites passion and a desire to change not only our own destiny, but the destiny of our community.
Through the bricks laid by the enslaved Israelites, we hold earth between our palms and sense the weight of captivity resting upon our collective memory.
Through unprotected doorways, we sense innocent breath being carried away by the Angel of Death. Hail, locusts, frogs and sickness sweep through the land, a reminder that we are bound by the tumultuous motion of wind and sky.
The element that calls to me most strongly is water. Rivers, sea, blood and tears compose the most evocative moments of duality in the Passover story.
The Nile is a force of anguish and possibility, able to separate MosesThe quintessential Jewish leader who spoke face to face with God, unlike any other prophet, and who freed the people from Egypt, led them through the desert for forty years, and received the Torah on Mt. Sinai. His Hebrew name is Moshe. from his mother as a baby and provide him with the chance to reach adulthood and lead the Israelites to freedom.
The blood coursing through the Nile invokes thirst and sickness, but the blood painted over doorways prevents death from entering the homes of the Israelites.
The Red Sea is a barrier and passageway to freedom, as the Israelites’ liberation from slavery comes at the expense of Egyptian life. The path to the Promised Land expands and contracts like the changing tides, a reminder that opportunity is temporal and fleeting.
Even on our Passover table, ritual objects involving water—small bowls of salt water for karpas and Miriam’s Cup—offer promises of deep memory and healing. Without the lingering taste of tears in our mouths from salt water, we cannot comprehend the sweet relief of escaping slavery. Without acknowledging the miracle of Miriam’s Well, we cannot appreciate the importance of sustainment in challenging times.
This playlist brings the redemptive and discordant forces of water into our ears, drawing from jazz, pop, Afrobeat, folk rock, soul, electronic and more. As you listen, linger on the power of water in music. Let it draw forth your fiercest ambitions and quietest hopes for change.
Shoshana Lovett-Graff helps to bridge the spaces between technology, spiritual practice and Jewish learning as the Innovation & Impact Program Associate at Reconstructing Judaism and Ritualwell. She writes and resides in Philadelphia, PA. Follow her work here.