Spring has never been quite the same for me after a trip I took a couple of years ago. I was accompanying a Jewish school's heritage visit to Poland. One of the places we visited was Auschwitz, which I expected to be depressing, but when you stare at the endless piles of shoes and suitcases, you are truly speechless.
Walking around the rooms of the death camp with its unceasing and precisely recorded lists of the murdered innocents on the walls, you feel trapped in a permanent winter. The sun was shining that day, but its light seemed dull and artificial. The main enduring thought following that experience was imagining the way in which those victims were muted and oppressed. For years. Years of unceasing winter, years of silent agony where nobody can hear you scream.
I thought about the African Americans' plight under the horror of slavery and today I ponder Christian communities in the Middle East who have also been uprooted and threatened with extinction. Oppressed peoples long for spring - in fact, this word can be applied here in more than one sense.
The other type of spring is the metal coil that has been squashed and made to contract inwardly. The tighter the spring, the harder it is to deform and the more energy you need to invest in it. However, the energy you use isn't lost: most of it is stored as potential energy in the spring. Release it and it will snap upwards with tremendous force, the downward pressure is itself absorbed and converted to create movement in the opposite direction.
Pesach always takes place in the springtime, the time of rebirth. The Israelites were tightly wound slaves for hundreds of years, only to be given the strength to recoil and miraculously spring into life as a free nation. Pesach serves as a model to inspire us to stand up for those in our society who are being muted, downtrodden and unfairly restrained. Its eternal message is to never give up hope - for the spring is most potent when it is most repressed and with the slightest release will explode into action.