Our world is awash in narratives and storylines. Our music, our movies and television shows, our literature (it goes without saying)—all of our culture, all of every culture, is an accumulation of the stories we tell, about ourselves and our lives, about others and about “the other,” about our collective history and our personal pasts. Our very real lives are a poetic riff on the prosaic facts of our existence, fiction meeting non-fiction, a series of self-referential story assemblages. And even at our most objective, our reality cannot help but be shaped by our experience and perception and memory, for we are, at our core, storytellers.
So too our Jewish peoplehood, with its beliefs and practices, its proximity and its precedents and all its multitudinous cultural expressions, is formed and shaped and then reshaped by storytelling. And with Passover upon us, we reengage with the penultimate narrative of our purpose-filled redemption from slavery. Our ancestors, on the precipice of their flight from Egypt, are told how they should tell their story to their children and their children’s children.
With the Israelites offering pascal sacrifices and marking the doorposts of their homes with blood, Moses tells them, When your children ask you, ‘What does this ceremony mean to you?’ then tell them, ‘It is the Passover sacrifice to the Lord, who passed over the houses of the Israelites in Egypt and spared our homes when He struck down the Egyptians.’ On that day tell your child, ‘I do this because of what the Lord did for me when I came out of Egypt.’ And in days to come, when your child asks you, ‘What does this mean?’ say, ‘With a mighty hand the Lord brought us out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.’
So it is that our story takes form.
We were redeemed with a mighty hand. But not our mighty hand and not for the sake of power, rather for the sake of responsibility. For the sake of freedom and for the sake of obligation. Our Passover Seder—our ritual storytelling—becomes at once the commemoration of a historical event and a contemporary reliving of the Exodus. How will we put ourselves in the moment of redemption? How will we reconcile these stories that are simultaneously rooted in history—and, thus, already written—and in our future? And what space is there in this story for new identities and understandings?
May this Passover bring you a richer understanding of your place in our historical experience and a deeper sense of your place in our unfolding narrative.
Rabbi Jay Strear
President & CEO
Please email Rabbi Strear at CEO@JEWISHcolorado.org with comments or questions.