In Times Like These #23 4-6-2020
Spring is here – we are having actual ‘weather’, and it’s fabulous to celebrate together holidays, albeit not in person. Good Friday is on Friday April 10, Easter is on Sunday April 12, Coptic Easter is on Sunday April 19 and Passover starts Wednesday night, April 8, at sundown.
If you had to make four promises, one to yourself, one to the people with whom you live, one to your local community, and one to the planet – what would they be?
Passover, the Jewish holiday commemorating the almost 6,000-year old historic exodus from slavery to freedom, is celebrated with an organized meal, called a Seder. The story of Moses is told. You know it well. You’ve seen Kirk Douglas in ‘The Ten Commandments’ just last week on network tv, or if not, then perhaps ‘Prince of Egypt,’ or, most helpful, The Rugrats Passover.
Here is a different ‘take’ on the tale. Moses was an at risk and traumatized youth. Moses was a foster child, of sorts – he was raised by the Pharoh’s daughter but maintained contact with his family of origin. He had many identity issues with which to grapple – where did he belong, who was his family? He was also a ‘special needs’ child, and today, most likely would be receiving Special Education services with an IEP (individualized education plan). He had a speech impediment, anger management issues, poor judgment, and impulse control problems. When he encountered injustice, he acted out, without thinking, killing a man who was abusing a slave, and then, he panicked and ran away. It took him until young adulthood (early 20s or so), to be ready to problem solve well. The story is told that one day, he was asked, by G-D, to lead the slaves out of bondage. Moses was highly reluctant, saying, ‘I have a speech problem and am really not up to doing this.’ His bio brother, Aaron, offered to help, and together the duo returned to Egypt to confront the mighty Pharoh.
The theme is nicely summed up in “If you believe”, best known from the Prince of Egypt movie soundtrack, performed therein by the late Whitney Houston.
In this time of fear, when prayer so often proves in vain Hope seemed like the summer birds, too swiftly flown away Yet now I'm standing here, my heart's so full I can't explain Seeking faith and speaking words I never thought I'd say There can be miracles when you believe Though hope is frail it's hard to kill Who knows what miracles you can achieve When you believe somehow you will You will when you believe
The four promises of the Seder go along with the four cups of wine (or, often, grape juice) that are blessed during the meal. There are also four questions asked, and a celebration of four types of children.
Moses and his brother confronted Pharoh, who, after 10 plagues, agreed to release the slaves. In that moment, Moses had to decide if he should flee quickly, taking only the fastest and most healthy of the people with him. However, as any good leader knows, there is strength in community, and each of us is responsible for our ‘brother’. Thus, he told ALL the people to pack up and leave – he took the babies, the old, the sick, the sad, along with the young and healthy and vibrant. Together, as a community, the people left slavery, and moved into freedom. There were many risks involved, and it was not an easy passage. The Red Sea reportedly opened up for them, and they made the escape together. The power of a reluctant leader, who worked with his brother, who focused on community, is now a story we re-tell annually.
So each year, at this time of renewal and of Spring, we remember what it is to be slaves, and how hard it is to be a leader, and how important it is to focus on community and what together, we can accomplish. We think about promises we can make. We become mindful of things to which we are all enslaved. We commit to taking on leadership roles even when we don’t feel ready. We pledge our faith in one another.
Indeed, there can be miracles, when you believe.