Today is the first day of Passover. To most Jewish people, that means a seder, matzo, wine, recounting the story that’s in the Haggadah. To Rabbi Niles Goldstein, it’s more radical than that: “Here you have a band of newly freed slaves. They are wandering through the desert with virtually nothing surrounded by three regional superpowers; to the south, the Egyptians that they just left, to the north the Assyrians, and to the northeast the Babylonians. Three regional superpowers who could probably defeat them in a heartbeat. And here is this band of newly freed, this ragtag band of newly freed slaves has the audacity, the courage, the guts, to say to these three cultures, these three superpowers that you are wrong. That you are wrong to bow down and treat as gods these statues made of stones and sticks; these idols. And to have that kind of courage and guts to be able to introduce monotheism to a world that was still practicing idolatry to meet is what Passover is ultimately all about.”
Goldstein talks to Big Think about everything from using karate to better his spiritual identity, to reflecting on the most difficult part of his job: dealing with Jews. Plus, is being a Jew in New York City all that it’s cracked up to be?