Posted by: Subway Conductor | December 29, 2009

January 2010

From Rabbi Michael Arsers:

This month in the synagogue, we are beginning to read the Book of Exodus in the weekly Torah portions.  The Exodus from Egypt is found over and over again in Jewish life and ritual.  Of the major holidays of the year, none is more beloved than Passover.  Almost all Jews observe Passover in some way, even if they do very little else Jewish during the year.  On this holiday we are to experience for ourselves the events of the Exodus from Egypt.  But, Passover is certainly not the only occasion on which we remember the Exodus from Egypt.  It is remembered every Shabbos.  The Friday evening Kiddush states that Shabbos is “.a remembrance of the Exodus from Egypt.”  Tefillin are also said to be a symbol of the Exodus.  And, indeed, we are commanded to mention the Exodus every single day.  To accomplish this duty, the third paragraph of the daily Shema was added because it ends with the phrase, “I am the Lord your G-d who brought you out of the Land of Egypt.”

It is clear that there is no event in Jewish history that rivals the Exodus.  It is striking to think that there is no holiday or ritual to mark the conquest of the Land of Israel or the building of the Temple in Jerusalem.  Rather, it is our experience of slavery and our redemption from bondage that are recalled in so many rituals and holidays.

Why is the Exodus from Egypt so central? Why are we compelled to constantly remember it? Certainly, G-d had an intention in making this event the central memory for Jews.

I believe that the importance of this is so that we will remember that our beginnings as a people were in slavery and then liberation.  This fact that is instilled in us by constant repetition has created a particular type of personality that every Jew shares.  Its purpose is to remind us that no matter how dark things appear, no matter how hopeless the situation seems, a Jew never loses hope.  It is this personality trait that has given Jews the ability to survive pogroms, inquisitions, expulsions, and even the Holocaust.  Every Jew has been taught over and over again that despite the darkness of Egypt, G-d redeemed us from there.

On a personal level too, all of us have ups and downs in life.  The greatest gift that Judaism has given us is the ability never to lose hope.  We know that redemption is always possible.  This is the strength that has been instilled in us by the constant memory and mention of the Exodus from Egypt.

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