Passover Paradox: Freedom given, yet must be earned

This is the season of the epic freedom story of the Jewish people: our Exodus from Egypt.

We are told: we were taken out of Egypt.

That this was an act of pure Kindness on God’s part, executed by His Mighty Hand and Outstretched Arm.

That there was nothing we had to do to earn it.

That there was no inquiry to determine that we were deserving.

That the sea parted before us and closed over the Egyptian chariots, mired in mud.

That on the eighth day, Miriam led the women in dance.

We are told: after we were taken out of Egypt, we wandered in the wilderness for another 40 years, long enough for the enslaved generation to die out.

That is how long it took to get the Egypt out of us, to gain the freedom freely bestowed.

At any given moment I can find myself the recipient of gratuitous and enormous Kindness, and slogging wearily through a wilderness, where my personal history refuses to give up the ghost.

I belong to the tribe of freed people who nevertheless have to claim liberation by dint of persistent effort, in the face of temporary defeat, in the arms of temporary refuge.

Every year we gather to tell the story.

We are advised: live the story, don’t just tell it.

We are advised: the more we elaborate in the telling of the story, the better.

Our elaborations over our family seder table have included over the years truth-tales of the Holocaust, of the Russian Refuseniks, of the lost and the survivors of the Middle Passage, of the slaughtered of Darfur, of the countless losses of Mother Earth.

At one point in the story-telling we open the door of our house and invite in Elijah the Prophet to sip at the wine we have set aside for him.

We are told: in this season it is Elijah the Prophet who may turn the hearts of parents and children towards one another, thereby holding off total destruction of the earth.

May we in this of all years take in upon ourselves to turn our hearts towards one another, both trusting in the gratuitous Kindness and dedicated to persistent effort on behalf of one another’s freedom.


 

Banner photo from Passover Haggadah by Raphael Abecassis

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