For generations, Jewish families have shared the ancient story of the Exodus at the Seder table. They found in this story a unique vision of human history and experience. They found a unique set of ethics. They found the strength to hope, despite the darkest of circumstances. This remarkable story forms the core of our identity as a people, and our philosophy of life. For the story of enslavement and liberation is not a one-time event, but an eternal process.
B'chol dor vador...in every generation, chayav adam...each person is enjoined, lir'ot et atzmo...to see himself, k'eeloo hu yatzah mi'Mitzrayim...as if he emerged from the 'narrow place.'
It is a mitzvah for us, tonight, to relive a dramatic event - our emergence from slavery to freedom; our birth as a people. Tonight we are not the audience in this drama we are its actors. Tonight, we let our heart surprise our head, and we let our head inform our heart.
The drama of our birth as a people is related in fragmentary elements much like a dream recorded after awakening. Words alone are inadequate to relate a dream, yet that is all we have. To assist us in reliving the drama of this dream the seder provides us not only with words but with guideposts: midrash, symbols, melodies and pictures to connect the words in the drama.
This drama we attempt to relive tonight is not only about our ancestors, it is not even about us, it is us. Our ancestors lived and, now, we live the dream. They wrote, we are writing and our children will rewrite the dream of our birth and our lives as a people. Our task is to fill in the spaces between the dream and the reality of our lives. When we engage in the task of making ourselves whole we become our own midrash.
Throughout the entire Torah, this festival is called “The Feast of Matzot.” Yet, Jews call the festival “The Feast of Passover.”
In Torah it is written (Exod 12:39): “And they baked unleavened cakes of the dough that they had taken out of Egypt, for it was not leavened, since they had been driven out of Egypt and could not delay; nor had they prepared any provisions for themselves.” For this, God praised them through the words of His prophet: “Thus says the Eternal: I remember the devotion of your youth, how you loved Me as a bride, following me in the desert, in a land unsown” (Jer 2:2). Note that they didn’t ask, “should we take provisions?” They simply trusted in the Eternal, and were sure of His salvation. And so they took only dough, to bake unleavened cakes.
And the Passover sacrifice that the Jews ate in Temple times was performed because the Omnipresent One passed over the houses of our ancestors, etc...
Thus, in the Torah, God calls the holiday “The Feast of Matzot.” In doing so, God is praising the Jewish People for baking unleavened bread which they brought out of Egypt as cakes of matzot, and for not taking along provisions for themselves.
Meanwhile, the Jewish people call the holiday “Passover” in praise of the Holy One, “who passed over the homes of the Israelites...when He struck Egypt, but saved our houses” (Exod 12:27).
And now let us begin our task. The Talmud teaches that it is not our responsibility to finish our task but it is our responsibility to begin it.
Hineni muchan um'zuman...Here am I ready and prepared, l'kayem et mitzvat asey...to fulfill the mitzvah of doing.
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