Shaya Cohen -


Pesach: Our Choice Today!

From the first mention of Hagar, the Egyptian maidservant, through our lives in Egypt and even when the Jews regretted having left, Egypt embodies the comfort and safety of a relationship with the natural world.

Egypt is everything that people think they want from life. It is rich and abundant, predictable, and safe. Embodied by Hagar, Egypt is fertile and undemanding. It is the land where nature rules, where all mankind has to do to survive and thrive is to live in harmony with the natural cycles. In an uncertain world, it is nice to have the choice of an easy existence. Even as slaves, it is clear that the option of staying in Egypt was very attractive to many Jews.

And so it remains today. Offered the choice between a difficult and demanding life with Hashem, looking upward for an uncertain and unpredictable sustenance, compared to a life with nature, in which we can live the Good Life and build storehouses for all of our wealth, it is no surprise that Jews choose to be frei, non-religious.

And so Pesach is not just retelling and reliving the founding of the Jewish people. It is also a reminder that we, too, face the ongoing choice in our lives: do we, as individuals and as a nation, accept the statistically inevitable, the Laws of Nature, or do we purge ourselves of the inevitable, of chometz, and seek a relationship with G-d? Pesach is not just about history: it is about NOW.

G-d tells us this, in plain language: “I am Hashem who sanctifies you, who takes you out of the land of Egypt to be a G-d unto you.” (Lev: 22:32) The present tense is explicit!

And G-d tells us, “you shall not contaminate yourselves through any teeming thing that creeps on the earth. For I am Hashem who elevates you from the land of Egypt to be a G-d unto you.” It is no coincidence that the Jews, in the beginning of Exodus, are described with precisely the same word (shin-resh-tzadik): we, too, teemed on the ground!

And so, too, today. We can be One with the earth, if we want to. But G-d is telling us that not only did he take us out of the physical land of Egypt, but he continues to be available to all Jews, even today, to help lift us off the ground, and looking toward the heavens, to choose a challenging and ultimately spiritually rewarding relationship with G-d instead of the easy, comfortable choices offered to us by staying close to the ground.

Comments are welcome!

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