In these last hours before the night of the first seder, there are going to be those families who desperately seek out every last crumb of chameitz they can find. Yet many will go on tolerating the “chameitz” that through apathy and ignorance we inflict on Jewish women worldwide.
Because no matter how many Haggadahs recount the story of our freedom from slavery, as long as agunot (women who haven’t received gets, Jewish writs of divorce, from their ex-husbands) are stifled from living their lives, then we aren’t really entirely free.
We see people at car wash vacuum cleaners pumping quarter after quarter into the machines to get rid of that horrid extra Cheerio from the baby seat. Yet the dirty deal that doesn’t draw life-changing action from traditional Jewish society turns an agunah’s wish to marry and to experience intimacy again into its own sort of chameitz.
Some of these former husbands will fight you over the observance of the most remote Talmudic stricture – but they knowingly sabotage the lives of their ex-wives.
We wish for everyone a beautiful, meaningful seder, no matter how you and your family choose to celebrate.
But as long women in our Jewish world are kept in a state of agunot, then they are not really free. If they’re not free, than we didn’t leave Egypt as a totally liberated people.
There is an 11th plague, although it’s not something you dip your finger in wine to commemorate. It is apathy. It is not having the courage to take this “Mitzrayim” out of the Jewish way of life. We believe Orthodox Jewish leaders could do something if they had the courage.
For as long as there is one agunah, then matzah is really the bread of affliction.
Because as long as women are not given gets, then we let oppression happen right before eyes.
And for many agunot, this night simply is no different than all other nights.