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Do We Get It?

04/14/2022 10:10:51 AM


In 1776, the Revolutionary War happened and yet there is still far too much taxation without representation. And ironically, for that matter, far too much representation without taxation.  The Civil Rights Act happened and yet for too long, too many have had to fight for the basic rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.  WWII happened and the Holocaust happened and yet anti-Semitism, racism, and ethnic cleansing are still alive, in the air we breathe and the land we sow.  I am not convinced that the mere fact of something happening means that we get it.  But there are always, especially at this time of the year, articles or news specials centered on determining the veracity of “The Exodus.”  Did it really happen?  Thank you to Rex Solomon for sharing this Jerusalem Post article with me:  “Is the Bible's story of the Jewish exodus from Egypt accurate?” The author suggests that, despite there being no known evidence of the Exodus in Egyptian records, perhaps one can discern proof by way of understanding that the ancient historian, Josephus and others, when writing about the Exodus, were articulating what was a part of Egyptian collective memory.  Interesting, yes?  I think so.  Definitely worth a read and if you’re into this kind of stuff, this wormhole is a terribly fun way to get lost online. 

That said, I am not going to make a strong argument for or against the Exodus “happening.”  Not to sound too glib, but for me it comes down to that question about the tree in the woods.  If it falls, but there is no one to hear it, did it truly fall?  That question is really about relevance.  Does it matter?  Does it affect our lives?  Does the Exodus change the way we engage in that business deal we are in the middle of right now?  Does it cause us to consider sharing more of our wealth with those who do not have enough?  Does it inspire us to spend time on improving the arc of the lives of those who didn’t have our luck to have been born into this life?  These are the kinds of questions that arise for me when preparing for, thinking about, and observing Passover, all of which boil down to a single question:  “Do we get it?” This, I will submit, is THE fundamental question of Passover. 

For me, whether the Exodus can be proven scientifically or not, it’s irrefutable that the Jewish people built their civilization on and around the narrative that once we were slaves. It is a narrative they took for themselves, that each year we are offered the opportunity to take for OURSELVES.  It is the identity of a people whose God isn’t parochial but broad and all-encompassing, Who demands of us our partnership for the sake of the world.  For me, this is the most inspiring part of the study of the Exodus from Egypt. Not every people or person who has suffered learns from their experience not to repeat and reproduce the damage done to them. Unfortunately, it’s too often the other way around.  As the Rabbis teach, “in every generation, each of us must see ourselves as if we came forth out of the land of Egypt.”  That is the crux of Passover.  As the great Sage Rabbi Hillel taught, “That is the whole Torah, all the rest is commentary. Go and learn it.”

On behalf of Natalie, Abraham, and Samuel, and all of the CSK Leadership Team, and Tiffany Halfon and her family, I pray for you and for the world a sweet and enduringly meaningful Passover – one that we “get.”

Sun, September 24 2023 9 Tishrei 5784