Come this Monday evening, we will gather at our tables with our family and friends, and we will retell the ancient story. The Pharaoh of Egypt enslaved the Israelites, fearing that they would rebel against him. After years of brutal hardship, God calls upon Moses to go to Pharaoh and demand that he let the people go free. And finally, after ten plagues come upon Egypt, Pharaoh does agree to let the Israelites go forth.
Is this story, as related in the Torah, is it historically accurate? Were there really “ten plagues,” or did the sea really part? In truth, I don’t know as I was not there. But I do know that this ancient story has assumed a compelling place in the Jewish religion, and that it continues to inspire us to be engaged in our world and to strive to overcome the “plagues” that befall humanity.
Thirty-six times the Torah tells us: “Remember the heart of the stranger because you were strangers in the land of Egypt.” Remember what it feels like to be the outcast, to be the one who is identified as “different;” Remember the poor, the needy and the oppressed, and work for a world in which there are no such “strangers.”
Passover is a festival of hope. The slave can go free. Those who are oppressed can envision and experience a better time. The weak can become strong, and the hungry can be fed.
But for any or all of this to happen, Judaism teaches that we must all be involved in trying to bring about such a better time. For we are the voice through which God speaks, and we are the “hands” through which God acts.”
For you and your loved ones, may this be an inspiring and meaningful Passover. Let us be grateful for our blessings, and let us again resolve that together, we can bring about a better time for humanity.
Rabbi David Greenberg