A modern-day story of liberation

While getting ready to retell the story of our own liberation from Egypt at Passover, we have witnessed another people experiencing their first taste of liberation after years of brutality under a modern-day Pharaoh, Saddam Hussein.

Regardless of our feelings about the war, watching the dismantling of the statue of Saddam and Iraqis dancing and cheering in the streets of Baghdad can't help but remind us of our own deliverance, which we will celebrate at our seders Wednesday night.

Passover has always been a bittersweet feast. It is bitter because we recall our oppression not only in Egypt but in the "mitzrayims" of our more recent past — Nazi Germany, the former Soviet Union and the Arab lands of the Mideast.

In addition, just as we are commanded not to rejoice at the drowning of Pharaoh's soldiers and of the slaying of the first-born in Egypt, we cannot feel good about the massive death and destruction in Iraq — the deaths not only of American military personnel and journalists but of thousands of Iraqis, many of them civilians.

While we can celebrate the end of an evil regime, we recognize it comes at a price.

Beyond Iraq, we are all too aware that other peoples are still experiencing oppression, including Jews in Europe, particularly France, where anti-Semitism is on the rise; our Israeli brothers and sisters, who are not free to leave their homes without fear; and Palestinian civilians, who are often not free to leave their homes at all.

And closer to home, there are those who remain enslaved by poverty, racism, sexism, homophobia, homelessness, unemployment, disease and hunger.

As we dip the parsley into the saltwater this year to recall our own Exodus and our own tears, let us also remember those who have yet to taste freedom, and let us celebrate those in Iraq who are winning theirs.

Let us also take joy in our own freedom and in the sweetness of the festival — sharing the foods that have comforted us for generations with friends and family. And as we retell the Exodus story, let us take comfort in a tradition and a faith that will continue to sustain us.