We are beginning the month of Nisan, the month of freedom, the month of Pesach. The festival of freedom par excellence. The one that reminds us that we should feel as if we ourselves have left Egypt. The one that reminds us that for more than a generation, we allowed ourselves to be enslaved by comfort or by the “they will not attack me” and the SAME THING happened on various occasions. Our people sustained themselves in the midst of societies who were hostile to them.
Pesach really provokes us much more than 4 questions. Perhaps that is why Ma Nishtaná is intended for the little ones: because adults go through, or should go through, a lot more questions. But in that case, the Seder would last forever. The best thing is that those questions perhaps, just perhaps, are questions that question something of our history as a people. Possibly, they demand answers from us in our EVERYDAY LIFE.
For example: the "Passover story", as recounted in the Haggadah, would start from the story of the Patriarch Yaakov. The one who faced diverse exoduses in his life. The one who left his father's house to escape the sentence that his brother Esau would surely inflict on him for the theft of the birthright and the paternal blessing.
He was the one who had another exodus when he left the house of his father-in-law Laban, who had cheated him by marrying him to the eldest and ugliest daughter against the will of a Yaakov in love with Rachel, the smallest and most beautiful. He later returned the scam in the raising and distribution of cattle in common. He launched a new exodus, with his belongings in tow and to settle again in the land of his parents.
Parallels aside, Yaakov did not have Moshe to guide him. Yaakov was, as Bereshit tells us in the confrontation with the angel, absolutely alone. Not because he was REALLY alone, but because he was alone in his struggle, in his search for life.
THOSE are the exoduses we face daily. The crises that make us make decide and puts us in front of a wild and enormous sea. We do not know if it will open up to allow us to get ahead from the daily pressures that persecute us, press on our heels like Mitzraim soldiers in front of that sea. Thousands of examples: changing jobs, closing a business because it didn't go well for us, the anxiety of opening a new one, the separation of couples, children and parents. Life puts us in front of different seas, different Miztraim, different exoduses.
We know well that the group of Bnei Israel that left Egypt was not the same that arrived in the Promised Land. Yet no one sees the Exodus as a failure, nor Moshe as a leader who failed in his task. Quite the contrary, the task is not always achieved leaving us unscathed along the way.
Surely, the hardest task was not to arrive. The hardest task was to keep walking and not turn back. Doing things so that those who would continue the task DID arrive. The goal was Eretz Canaan, the Land of Israel. The REAL liberation consisted of NOT going back to Egypt. THAT is precisely what we celebrate year after year. We must believe in ourselves in order to celebrate our own daily exoduses, to which we must not return to or look back.
If Passover was just to remember the exodus from Egypt, we could make this tradition stay alive for years.
If Passover were only to review the Chametz that is in our homes, we would be fulfilling an important ancestral mandate like all our mitzvot. We would be achieving a special spirituality in our homes during this week.
If Passover were only the experience of eating the bread of poverty to maintain identity with our elders and ancestors, we would be able to recognize that the things we have are worth nothing next to the whole family together, a community that builds or a town that makes the decision to dare to grow and mature.
If Passover was just that, DAYENU—it would be enough for us.
But it is so much more.
Pesach is seeing ourselves leaving Egypt in each of the prisons that we put ourselves in daily and do not let us escape the intolerances, prejudices and injustices. The prisons that keep our mouths shut when we know what is happening around us is not right and we do not dare to change it. The cells of apathy leave us motionless in the certainty that participating and doing is what would free us.
It is checking that Chametz in our homes and also in our hearts. In our "not bowing our heads" when sometimes we should. In our "not listening to the opinions of others with respect and inclusion" and supposing that the reason is unique and ours.
It is understanding that the bread of poverty is the daily bread for many. Not as a slogan, but as a daily task they face and holding the one who cannot and does not have it or does not even get a hug or a visit.
If we understand ALL the value of Pesach... even then let's not say DAYENU.
There is always something more to contribute. There is always something more to do.
It is said that Rabbi Yisrael Salanter once left the study house late at night. The streets of the town were deserted and dark. After wandering for a while, he saw a very dim light peeking out of the window of a hut. Curious, the rabbi approached and entered the precarious dwelling. He found an old shoemaker sitting in an almost dark room very close to a little piece of candle that remained unconsumed. He was concentrating on repairing a shoe. The rabbi asked him, "Why are you working so late, why are you not sleeping?" To which the shoemaker replied, "Rabbi, while the candle burns, it can still be repaired." Rabbi Israel went out in the street and shouted, "Listen dear Jews, as long as the candle burns, it can still be repaired"!
“Kol zman shehaner dolek, efshar od letaken”.
As long as the candle burns, it can continue to be improved, repaired and corrected. In the month of Nisan and this Passover, may we make the decision not to return to our Miztraim, but to keep our candles lit.
Pesach Kasher and SAMEACH for each and every one of you, each of our families and our entire community,