The table is set with its array of small dishes, both bitter and sweet, that lead us, bite by bite, sip by sip, on a journey. The pathway is as clearly mapped as the precise order of the ceremony about to unfold, for Seder, literally and figuratively, means order. And so it is, year after year, generation after generation, that we follow that order and again and again symbolically flee the bitterness of slavery in Egypt to arrive at the sweetness of freedom in the Promised Land.
The footsteps along the way are like so many drops of wine on the snowy white cloth that naps the holiday table. They lead us from the depths of despair to the promise of redemption, like so many crumbs of crisp matzah, so many nibbles of parsley or mouthfuls of toothsome charoset. And while we are taught to tell, and retell, the story, it is, of course, both a simple narrative with a beginning, a middle and an end, and a complex metaphoric one deepened with layer upon layer of history that informs its thousands of years of telling.
So it is that this year, as any other, the story is resonant with new meaning, as we as a people, confront the making and remaking of our identity as Jews and the making and remaking of the obligations our identity implies. We remember the crushing weight of oppression and the miracle of divine intercession as the Red Sea parted. We recall the leadership of Moshe Rabbenu and his profound disappointment when denied entry to the land promised to Abraham. And we recollect the transformation of the Israelites from an ancient tribe of stiff-necked people into a nation of fractious citizens who yet today still tussle with the demands of freedom and responsibility.
And so it goes, the footsteps, and missteps, spill across the table, across the map, as Israel struggles to reconcile its identity as a Jewish nation with an ever emboldened nascent Palestinian state, as it must defend itself from heinous terrorist attack, even as it labors to uphold its legacy of democracy and equality and its commitment to justice.
So those of us who love Israel, those of us who see her story as our story, those of us who revel in its telling and retelling, hope and pray that in this year, at this time, Israel and its leaders will resolve to find a way out of the modern day mitzrayim, that narrow place that enslaves us all. That Israel will move closer, if not to peace, then to an absence of war. That she will move closer to recognizing the reality of two peoples vying for a place in one land, that she will move closer to reconciliation and redemption.
And that next year, in Jerusalem, the promise that is the land of Israel will be made real.