Celebrate the Process!

” Behold, days are coming, says God, when they will no longer say “By God, who brought the children of Israel up out  of the land of Egypt”, but rather “By God, who brought up and brought the seed of the house of Israel from the lands of the North and from all the lands to which I expelled them” (Jeremiah 23)
There is an astounding resonance between our celebration of Israel’s first redemption, Pesach, and Israel’s modern redemption.
Pesach, being the good Jewish holiday that it is, revolves around food. The symbolism of the holiday is encapsulated in the triumvirate of the Korban Pesach (the paschal sacrifice), the matzah, and the maror. Whoever does not speak about these three, says Rabban Gamliel, just didn’t get the point. Why not?
The maror represents the bitter experience of slavery. The Korban Pesach represents the moment of our redemption. The matzah is complex- it is at one and the same time the ‘bread of our affliction’, reminding us of what we ate, and the time pressures we endured as slaves, and the bread of redemption, reminding us of the haste with which we left Egypt. Building the Pesach experience on this triad sends a powerful message. Redemption is not a moment, it’s a story. It’s a process, and to celebrate it properly, we must recognize and appreciate each step in the process.
This message is driven home over and over again in our Pesach celebration. We drink 4 cups of wine, marking 4 stages of redemption, and we make a blessing on each one. We are commanded to tell the story by ‘beginning with disgrace and ending with praise’. We sing Dayenu, proclaiming that each step of redemption would have been enough. And on the second night of Pesach, we begin the Omer count, which marks every day from our redemption from Egypt until the acceptance of the Torah. Just as we bless each of the four cups, we make a blessing on each day that we count, as we gradually rise, level by level, until we are ready for Revelation.
In the midst of these days, we have merited to witness the birth of a new triad, as powerful as the first, and strikingly similar. Yom HaShoah, Yom HaZikaron and Yom Ha’Atzmaut, the “High Holidays” of modern Israel, as Rav Donniel Hartman so correctly describes them, are the maror, matzah and korban pesach of our modern day redemption. Maror- Yom HaShoah represents the horrifying apex of the bitterness of 2000 years of exile. Matzah- Yom HaZikaron, the bittersweet, complex commemoration of the tremendous sacrifice for a tremendous cause. Our sadness on Yom HaZikaron is worlds apart from the sadness of Yom HaShoah. If it were up to us, of course, we would prefer if there were no need for this sacrifice. But there was, and so we mark it with anguish, but also with pride and with a deep sense of gratitude to the ‘silver salver on which the Jewish State was given’, in Alterman’s unforgettable words. And then, in a dramatic transition that so typifies the people of eternity, our matzah gives way to the unadulterated joy of Yom Ha’Atzmaut, when the air fills with song, and laughter, and the smell of the Jewish people’s Korban Pesach grilling on the mangal.
Our redemption is not complete. As it was in the days following the Exodus- there is, thank God, plenty to complain about, there are plenty of mistakes to be made, and plenty of work to be done. There were extreme voices then, and, tragically, they can be heard today, who say: better if we had not been redeemed at all. The same tune in minor trope is even more popular: It’s wonderful that we have a state, but there are so many problems, that we can’t really celebrate it just yet. But the Jewish people’s commemoration of our first redemption offers a different message: you have to celebrate the process!
About the Author
Avidan Freedman is the rabbi of the Shalom Hartman Institute's Hevruta program, an educator Hartman Boys High School in Jerusalem, and an activist against Israeli weapons sales to human rights violators.
Related Topics
Related Posts