It’s been more than three millennia since we left Egypt and, presumably, exited slave consciousness. It’s now more than six decades since the State of Israel was established in the modern world. The irony, really the tragedy, is that while we sat at our seder tables talking about and celebrating freedom, in many ways we continue to act as if we’re still slaves to Pharoah in Egypt.
At this point in our history, we should not be apologetic for merely existing. We should not feel obligated to receive outside approval to settle our land and to build homes to house our families. We should be proud of our spiritual connection to The Creator and shouldn’t feel we need to justify, or, even worse, censor our traditions and insights and rituals to make them acceptable to political, cultural or academic fashion. We should have confidence and pride in who we are, what we’ve achieved and what we’ve given and continue to give to the world.
We should also have the confidence that we needn’t cut ourselves off from the rest of the world because, somehow, we’ll be too tempted to throw our own culture aside. Rather, we should value, treasure and celebrate our reality, freely share it with others. We must also learn what we can from other traditions without fear that ours, somehow, won’t measure up–it will!. If we’re confident that there is only One God, and if we honestly trust Him, we needn’t feel threatened where no threat exists.
However, we also need to feel free to defend ourselves against the very real threats that do, in fact, exist. We needn’t rely on a “master”, a “stronger nation” to protect us, but need to develop our own abilities and strengths. When people threaten to annihilate our people, to throw us into the sea, we need the self-confidence to take them seriously and to respond as needed.
It’s long past time to see ourselves as either the “field hands”, lost to despair and feelings of worthlessness, or as the “house servants”, privileged and, somehow, more acceptable if we remember to mind our manners, i.e. if only we’d just stop insisting on acting like Jews all the time!
The upcoming Seventh Day of Pesach, the anniversary of our crossing the Sea, is the day in our calendar which most emphasizes our trust in God. It reminds us that even if we don’t ourselves see how our path eventually arrives at a full resolution, a completion of our mission of, partnering with The Creator Himself, putting the final touches on the world, as well as bringing ourselves to our fullest possible experience of the Eternal and Divine Infinite, we know that’s where we’re going. We’re reminded that even when it seems almost impossible to continue, as it has so many times in the past, we, like our ancestors, will somehow find the inner strength and the Divine help we need to carry on, to rebuild if necessary, but to see our responsibilities through.
Judaism is a system based on obligation, but when it’s based in love, it’s easier to make these obligations also our desires. It’s also based on covenant which, itself, is based in love. Although it’s buried deep within each of our hearts, that God will fulfill his promises to us, we should, finally, feel safe enough, free enough, to allow that truth to emerge into the entirety of our beings.
May we finally become free to trust, both in ourselves and, even moreso, of course, The Creator.
Remember, Judaism is the art of eternal optimism.