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08/30/2022 02:34:48 PM

Aug30

"...as if they had come forth from Egypt"

In the realm of religious history, there is little that compares with the Bible’s rendering of the Israelites' escape from Egyptian slavery. We get an underdog story, an evil and vain villain, and a dramatic Deus ex machina. Beyond a narrative tale, the story echoes the great theme of birth/rebirth: the people pass through a canal on the way to a new life; the birth of the nation not only frees them for a future but cuts them off from their past. There is only marching forward.

A family story is now a national tale. Soon will follow the need for responsibility. For the human release from domination by Pharaoh is traded up for rule by God.

The telling in the Bible is effective but for many Jews it is the retelling on Passover eve that sticks the lesson best: “In every generation a person must see themselves as if they had come forth from Egypt.” From ancient sagas to modern epics like Star Wars, the retelling of the narrative story gives meaning to the people and makes the future seem manageable. Past redemption points to future salvation. Unlike the Christian master story of redemption, the Jewish version focuses on a communal journey toward rebirth.

Of course, the freedom from Pharaoh quickly becomes liberty to follow God. A paradox: If we are not tied to something important, then we are not truly free.

Sun, February 5 2023 14 Sh'vat 5783