#blogExodus – Retelling
Here I go again. Last summer I did a series of blog posts in the #BlogElul series, preparing for the High Holy Days. Now we are plunging into the last two weeks before Passover, which for many people is at least as important as those solemn days in Tishrei. I’m going to follow Rabbi Phyllis Sommer‘s prompts again and do some thinking about our Redemption from Egypt, and what it means to us today.
Yesterday was Rosh Chodesh Nisan, the first day of the month of Nisan, the New Moon. I was going to start blogging then, but life intervened. Rather than waste time complaining about all the things I was doing when I would rather have been writing, I’m just going to plunge in with the second topic – retelling.
Every year we tell the same story of the Redemption from Egypt, but every year we need to refresh and renew that story. While there are some elements that must remain the same (the actual ritual actions of the Seder, but also my imitation of my late grandfather’s Ashkenazic pronunciation of certain key phrases), we try to bring in new ways to tell the story.
It’s a terrible story – of a hardhearted monarch who subjects his people to dreadful plagues because of his pride and his personal power struggle with a former prince of his court. I like the versions that have Pharaoh and Moses growing up as foster brothers, with all the sibling rivalries involved. It’s also the story of a nation of slaves who need to grow up and learn to take personal responsibility. How does Moses come into his power, and how do the Israelites come into theirs? What do the sufferings of the Egyptians mean to us today?
The interplay between the communal and the personal, both for the Egyptians and for the Israelites, is something that is worth pondering. The Sages who put the Haggadah together in Roman times gave the merest hints of their own thoughts on the subject, so it is up to us to retell the story in a way that fits our own times and our own lives.
How do you retell ancient stories, and how do they affect your life today?