For the week of April 19, 2003 / 17 Nisan 5763
Torah: Shemot / Exodus 13:1-16 & Bemidbar / Numbers 28:19-25
Haftarah: Ezekiel 36:37 - 37:14
In days to come, when your son asks you, "What does this mean?" say to him, "With a mighty hand the LORD brought us out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. When Pharaoh stubbornly refused to let us go, the LORD killed every firstborn in Egypt, both man and animal" (Shemot / Exodus 13:14,15).
Passover (Pesach in Hebrew) is a festival of liberation. After being oppressed at the hand of a harsh ruler, the people of Israel were miraculously released by God under the leadership of Moses and his brother Aaron.
While Israel's deliverance from Egypt is an occasion for celebration, it is also a most tragic and sad story for all involved. Due to Pharaoh, King of Egypt's unfounded fear of revolt, he bitterly oppressed the Israelites. When slavery did not seem to be a sufficient means in which to subjugate the people, Pharaoh then ordered the murder of their male babies through drowning.
When God decided that the time for deliverance had come, Pharaoh was given ample opportunity to comply by letting the people leave. But instead, because of his great stubbornness, he brought on himself, his own people, and his land, great suffering and disaster. God struck Egypt again and again until Pharaoh's selfish grip was loosened, and the people were finally set free.
One of the many meaningful symbols during the Passover seder (ceremonial meal) has to do with the drinking of the second of the four cups of wine. Prior to drinking this cup, which is called "Praise," we remove ten drops – one for each of the ten plagues with which God struck Egypt. The reason for this is that our praise is not truly full, since others had to suffer that we might be set free.
I wish the story of Passover could have been different. I wish we had never been slaves in Egypt, but we were. I wish that there could have been some other way to accomplish our freedom. But clearly there was not.
It is a sad fact of life that there are times when harsh actions must be taken, so that evil might be overcome. You and I may not be good judges of when such actions are necessary, but sometimes there is no other way.
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