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Go Jump... It's Passover!

Friday, 4 April, 2014 - 7:20 pm

For the OC Register and Rancho Canyon News 

Passover is here again and since last year I’ve made a new discovery: not only do many young people not know the story of the exodus from the Torah, they don’t even know it from Hollywood. (How old were they when the Prince of Egypt came out?) Not that the latter is wholly a bad problem—it leaves less misconceptions to undo— but it does create a different challenge: Where do you start?

The basic story is easy enough: The Israelites are enslaved by Pharaoh in Egypt. G-d sends Moses, who brings the ten plagues, and leads them out to freedom. In their haste, they bake the dough before it has time to rise. It becomes matzah. The Israelites travel through desert and sea, and receive the Torah at Sinai. A celebration is divinely ordained for all generations: Remove and avoid all leavened food for eight days. Make the first and last days holy days of rest. On the first nights after dark—this year on the nights of April 14 and 15—eat matzah and bitter herbs. Tell and discuss the story. Include four cups of wine, good food, heaps of laughter, family, spirit and song.

There’s more to it, but that’s a good beginning. The online resource below is a great place to follow up. But there’s another question that’s no less important: Where do you end? 

Truth is, you don’t. The story is ongoing, and is as relevant today as ever. How?

Here’s one idea: After the final plague, Pharaoh was reduced to a chicken-livered weakling. Why, then, did the Israelites have to rush so and sneak out like thieves? Actually, they didn’t. They marched out in broad daylight, at midday. Yet it says that they had no time to wait for the dough to rise?! And already from the night before, at the first seder, they were already dressed for the road, loins girded and staffs in hand, ready to travel in an instant?

Also, why choose the name Passover (Pesach in Hebrew), which refers only to a side detail in the last plague, how G-d passed (sprang) over the Israelite’s homes saving their firstborns from death. Surely there are more central themes. Why not call it Festival of Freedom, as indeed we do in the holiday liturgy?

One answer is that when you’re sinking in the quicksand you don’t wait. You run. You jump. You use all your power and energy to get yourself free and unstuck. You even find a strength that you never knew you had, to get out before it’s too late. On a spiritual level, the Israelites at that time had so descended into the pagan, immoral culture that surrounded them that they were in danger of being swallowed up and disappearing forever. Pharaoh aside, they needed out. G-d passed over—literally leaped—and so did they.

And that’s the key to redemption. When you’re in a rut, in a repressive negative cycle, or even just stricken by stagnation, reach into your inner core and jump. Go beyond yourself. Make a change in your lifestyle. Because as humans created in the image of G-d we have the infinite capacity to grow.

For additional holiday inspiration, insight, guidance and fun go to or, where you can also find communal seders across the county.

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