#blogExodus – Redeeming
The Passover Haggadah tells us that the redemption from Egypt did not only happen to our ancestors, but to us, personally. Just as the Sages tell us that we, personally, stood at Sinai when the Torah was given, so the Talmud says:
בכל דור ודור חייב אדם לראות את עצמו כאילו הוא יצא ממצרים
“In each and every generation a person is obliged to regard himself as if he had come out of Egypt.”
It’s a hard thing to do, especially for those of us who live in the comfort of the West. To what can we compare the sense of liberation and gratitude that must have flooded the freed slaves? Can we sing the Song of the Sea? We sing it every morning at our morning prayers, but do we feel the actual emotions that engendered it? What kind of experience can bring us to our feet, dancing Miriam’s dance?
Every generation faces its own dangers. In our time and place, the main threat is assimilation and apathy. It is a very insidious threat, brought on by good things such as freedom and tolerance. The big question of “Why be Jewish?” is one that many young people answer with a shrug. I believe that our institutions have failed to provide them with reasons to be Jewish, to care about the continuation of an ancient people with a difficult mission. They are disconnected. I was severely disconnected when I was younger, but I was brought back, first by my husband who was determined to have Judaism in our life, and then by a loving, accepting congregation that values my talents even though I am a woman.
All we can do to bring them back is stretch out our hands in friendship and love. Redemption can only come from connection. At my Seder each year I collect “waifs”, friends who for one reason or another are alone that night. It gives me so much pleasure to gather them at my table, to sing together and experience the joyous side of Judaism together. For some of them, it may be their only Jewish connection of the year. But when they come to my door, I hear Miriam’s timbrel.