Monday, March 29, 2010
Tonight the setting sun will mark the arrival of Passover. The holiday is marked in our time by the recitation of the story of the Exodus. Despite the vast dispersion of world Jewry, the similarites of the Hagada in Yemen and Syria to what is recited by German and Polish Jews is truly remarkable.
The removal of any form of leavened bread is compared to the removal of sinful pride from one's psyche. The holiday is by any reckoning a festival of liberation, when the Jews were freed from Egyptian servitude.
What ties the two ideas together? On the one hand, you have a revolution, led by G-d Himself. Do we burn portraits of the enemy? Do we revel in the crushing of our oppressors? No. At one point Hallel was recited as the Egyptians were drowning. Hallel is a joyous song of praise. G-d interrupted it and asked how one could rejoice as human beings were being destroyed. Yes, it was necessary for the Egyptians to drown in the sea, but it was still unspeakably sad that humans created in G-d's image had sunk to a level that their destruction was necessary.
An Israeli soldier once told me as I was bringing my wife and a newborn child from the hospital, "It takes nine months to make a baby. It takes 18 years to make a soldier. We fought because we had to, but I hate war."
What destroys a revolution? When the new leaders discover the joys of having a personal driver and of drinking contraband liquor, when the "revolutionary vanguard" becomes the new ruling class, that is when a revolution starts to die.
The real revolution begins not when the oppressed overthrow the oppressors. The revolution begins when the oppressed are free to confront themselves, to question and reverse the process of emotional disfigurement. One of the best lines I ever heard in any song was by Leonard Cohen. "Where do all these highways go, now that we are free? " It is a line that comes back to me on Passover. Indeed, the Jewish people traded the yoke of servitude that was thrown off on Passover for the yoke of the commandments that was accepted on Shavuos, (The Feast of Weeks).
We are promised that a season of liberation awaits us. The messianic redemption will not be a passive miracle show. It will be a time that the potential within societies and within individuals becomes manifest, when the chaos that now prevails in a tormented world will be sorted out.
Passover was a preparation for the giving of the Torah. It was an act of mercy that we were not left to flail blindly but were given divine guidance. In our troubled times, we hope and pray for the coming redemption, for the Third Temple to be rebuilt in its proper place.
When we saw communism fall as if it had never existed, when we saw people dancing on the ruins of the Berlin Wall, it opened millions of eyes weakened by darkness to the possibility of unbelievable miracles. It has been over 20 years since communism fell. I am astonished at a generation that is no longer astonished at that open miracle. I believe strongly that this generation will yet learn the meaning of amazement, that this generation will yet open its eyes to miracles. L'Shanah HaBa B' Yerushalayim... THIS year in Jerusalem.
A joyous Passover to all. Sphere: Related Content