Why did the chicken cross the road?
As Jews, we were first called Ivrim, the people “who crossed over to the other side.” Abraham and Sarah, our ancestors, made that cross over from Charan to the Land of Israel.
Later, during the Exodus story, we cross over again. We leave Egypt, across the Sea of Reeds, and transform into Bnei Yisrael, the Children “Who Wrestle with God.”
We don’t know why the chicken in the classic joke crosses the road. For the Jews who left Egypt, no doubt they assumed that when they crossed to the other side that everything was going to get easier. In reality, the Israelites went from slaves building someone else’s nation in Egypt to the epic-marathon project of building a nation of our own. The Exodus is a story of our wrestling with God only in its infancy.
Today, we are still running that marathon, as a Promised Land only remains promised so long as we are willing to work for it. There is hardly ever a break from the woes of being a chosen people.
Two years out of the pandemic, this Pesach we may feel somehow like slaves who have gone on to freedom. But don’t let that fool you. We may have crossed to the other side. Only our real spiritual challenge, learning to live as committed Jews in a post-pandemic era– is just now beginning. Let the wrestling commence.
Dan Dorsch is the senior rabbi of Congregation Etz Chaim.