Leaving for the Unknown

The story of Passover is one of radical imagination and hope

Tonight marks the first night of Pesach, the Jewish festival of freedom. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the idea that the Israelites and the “mixed multitudes” who joined them had no idea what they were leaving Mitzrayim for. I can’t stop thinking about this idea that hundreds of thousands of people fled their homes in the dark without knowing what would come next. What they knew is that enough was enough. If they stayed they would remain enslaved or perhaps they would be killed in retaliation for the death of the first born. Their only alternative was freedom. They knew they deserved more and so they left with gold taken (or given depending on your interpretation) from their oppressors and bread baking on their back.

The story of the Exodus is a story about radical imagination and hope. This lesson is reiterated by the midrash about the crossing of the Sea of Reeds. When the Israelites reached the Sea of Reeds they began to despair. There was water in front of them and Pharoah’s army was coming toward them from behind. One Israelite named Nachson stepped into the water. He kept walking forward until it was up to his mouth, but before he could drown the sea miraculously parted. The Israelites were once again on their way to freedom.

Today we are often told to be realistic in our hopes and demands for freedom. To give in to this scolding runs counter to the message of Pesach. Where would the Israelites be today if they had only accepted what they knew? As we begin to celebrate Pesach tonight we should remember two of many lessons from the Exodus story. One is the value of radical imagination, of moving towards a freedom that may be beyond our wildest dreams. The other is the importance of taking the first step, and trusting where it will lead us.

In honor of Pesach, let’s all try to envision a world where we are all free. It may be hard to imagine, but it is possible and it’s worth fighting for.


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