Rabbi Shefa Gold (Edinburgh International Festival of Middle Eastern Spirituality and Peace):
My grandfather, Isaac Katz, fled from Lithuania and spent a year in Scotland on his way to America. His Yiddish-inflected English had a distinctive Scottish lilt. He was on a journey to freedom, and the gifts of hospitality that he received here served him well. So first I want to thank you.
For Jews, freedom is precious. In our liturgy each day, we remember the exodus from slavery and our journey to the promised land. Jews here and all over the world are right now feverishly preparing for Passover, which is our festival of liberation. This is a time for each of us to imagine ourselves as slaves taking that dangerous journey out of bondage. On Passover, we remember the bitterness of oppression and dream of freedom for all. We retell the story of our journey and call out to the whole world:
"All who are hungry, let them come and eat; all who are needy let them come and celebrate the possibility of Freedom."
On the Sabbath of Passover, we read the "Song of Solomon", or "Song of Songs", so that we can remember the connection between freedom and love. Love is what drives our journey to freedom. Freedom is what allows us to choose love again and again in each moment as we are faced with the complex challenges of our time.
I have learned that the founding principles of the Scottish Parliament are openness, accountability, the sharing of power and equal opportunities. Behind those principles is love. Those principles are the descriptions of freedom.
In the great love song of freedom, we read:
"Set me as a seal upon your heart,
A sign upon your arm,
For Love is as strong as Death
Its passion is as harsh as the grave,
Its sparks become a raging fire,
A Divine Flame.
Great seas cannot extinguish love
No river can wash it away".
Let us take this moment of reflection to set a seal upon our hearts and remind one another that
"Love is as strong as Death", and that the divine inspiration in our hearts can stand firm against the forces of fear, divisiveness and oppression. No river can wash away your determination to serve the people of this land with integrity, openness, accountability and love.
At the Edinburgh International Festival of Middle Eastern Spirituality and Peace, we have come together to bring the richness of our diverse practices, languages and cultures to delight and bless one another with visions of peace. Today, I share those blessings with you.