Dear friends, Shalom u-vracha. Below I have included links to several essays on Pesach which I hope you will enjoy.
After a year in which we’ve personally felt a little bit of the Shi’abud Mitzraim – the bondage of Egypt – by way of the Pandemic – Pesach this year has an added meaning, bringing the Exodus a little closer to our own experience.
While the world at large has not yet fully left this new bondage, it is clear that now that we have discovered the various vaccinations, humankind seems to be on its way out of this terrible oppression. It is slowly leaving the modern “Mitzraim” – normally translated as “Egypt” but more correctly translated as “captivity”, from the Hebrew word “Metzar” which means confinement.
Pesach is no longer just a historical event which we celebrate but a personal current experience.
The whole world is now slowly undergoing an exodus. This universal Pesach may take a few more months before all of us will be able to complete this world-wide exodus through which all of humankind will be redeemed, but it will surely happen.
But to stay free of this bondage in the future we will have to work hard to make sure that no new “Egypt” will hit us, not only in the form of a new virus but also in the form of a confining attitude, in which we fall back to our earlier bondage to materialism, excessive luxury, and egocentrism. We have now learned that these things bring us neither freedom nor happiness.
When we are read in the Haggada that we should feel on the Seder night as if we ourselves were freed from Egyptian bondage, it will be much easier to fulfill this obligation this year.
It is no longer as if we ourselves have left Egypt, but now slowly we realize that we ourselves are really leaving the new Egypt of COVID-19. In the most literal sense of the word, we can recognize the enormous power and relevance of this festival.
We are again learning that we cannot take freedom for granted. It isn’t only a huge empire such as Egypt that can enslave us; even a tiny virus which we cannot even see can enslave the whole world, even in the 21st Century, with all its sophistication.
Israel was prepared to become a “guinea pig” to allow scientist to study whether or not a new vaccination would work for a whole country, and in doing so it served all of humankind to slowly escape this terrible disease, by proving that the vaccination is working.
Israel began this new Exodus and now the rest of humankind can follow in its footsteps and enjoy freedom.
In this, Israel once more has shown that it understands its task to serve as a “light unto the nations.”
May God grant the world an easy Exodus!
Pesach Kasher veSameach
Pesach and the Coronavirus: Where is God
The Coronavirus has once more confronted us with the absence of God in modern times. This absence is often seen as the cause for much secularism. No longer, it is argued, are there enough indications for God’s interference in the national and private affairs of mankind. Is there another way to look at this seeming absence? Might we find God in silence?
When we read the text on the Seder night, we should be aware that it only provides the opening words. The real Haggada has no text. It is not to be read, but is rather to be heard. And, just as with the Torah, we have not even begun to understand its full meaning. We are simply perpetual beginners.
On Pesach, which symbolizes the beginning of the Jewish people, Jews are once more reminded that their mission to become a light unto the nations can only start in the spirit of humility. Arrogance can never be the foundation of spirituality and moral integrity. It cannot inspire others, nor will it have a lasting effect.
Why do we use karpas – a green vegetable – dipped in salt water at the beginning of the Seder? Could it have something to do with the other meaning of karpas – fine woollen cloth? There is a lesson here, hidden in plain sight, about causality and Divine Providence.