It all happened many centuries ago. Amid the desert wastes where the silent Sphinx of Gizeh and the sand-packed pyramids of Cheops stand, mighty ancient Egypt ruled the world. Still, every Pesach, when we open the , E and review the drama of the Exodus, her haunting voice shouts across the chasms of history. When, in this way, we raise the curtain of the past, we are prone to wonder if all of this pageantry could have occurred.
In that far-off period of the Exodus, a heavy pall – sinister, oppressive, crushing – blanketed Egypt. The Israelites writhed under a lacerating burden of servitude. Pharaoh, on his golden throne, groveling slaves chained together in the pits, and (in between) a complicated priestly hierarchy – these comprised society in ancient Egypt. The idea of liberty was unknown. There was absolutely no concept of human dignity.
Then came the miracle! Out of the Infinite, a voice came forth: “Send forth My people that they may serve Me!” Pharaoh was startled, dumbfounded. Such a demand had never been recorded before. What right had slaves to freedom, worship, G-d?
But the incredible was achieved. Moses and Aaron insistently cried, “Let My people go!” The pall lifted: the idols came crashing down. Freedom had dawned. It was the very first Pesach!
This year, let us recapture the meaning of the first Pesach. Today’s Pharaohs – no matter by what they are called – still do not understand it. They, too, are headed toward doom unless they implement the Divine imperative: Let My people go!
Peter Berg is the senior rabbi of The Temple in Atlanta.