Shabbat Pesach: Who WIll Teach The Story?

white concrete building
Photo by Haley Black on

What an unreal time! This week, at our sederim, how many of us were concerned with that fourth child, the one unable to ask, or did not even know the right questions! As we look around at the state of the world, from Israel/Gaza to our own college campuses, with so much media, can we not help but wonder about history? Wasn’t it Santayana who reminded us that if we do not study and understand history we will relive it? There is a message about this that we can see in the special reading for Shabbat Chol Ha’Moed Pesach. From Exodus 33:21-23. Moses is in dialogue (so to speak) with God about leadership and this “stiff=necked” people. God, showing favor to Moses, tells him that God’s presence will be revealed to him and instructs Moses to go to a cleft in a rock so that Moses is shielded by the hand of God. “Then I will take My hand away and you will see my back, but My face must not be seen”. (Exodus 33:21-23) Well, that is a powerful image. God’s face is hidden by his hand, like a mask.What is God afraid of? Moses only gets to “see” after God has passed. Maybe this is another message about the importance of history, or as another philosopher put it, we live forward but understand backwards. But now, in our media age, with a promiscuity of information, we have so little wisdom. Maybe it is time to embrace a serious study of history so that, like Moses, we can see what was in order to understand what is and prepare for what may be.
SO few students study history. Our “history” is all too often recorded in 30 second sound bites, Tik-Tocked bits or cable biased controlled talking heads. With so much at stake now, we can ask if our generation, Boomers, may be the last generation to have some sense of history and if so, who will teach our story to the coming generations? The Middle-East conflagration needs to be viewed in historical context. It is part of a larger global re-configuration that is emerging as we speak. The huge changes in our American Jewish community are also a part of a historical context, where are our grandchildren learning this? Maybe, as the senior members of our time, we need to assert our life experience to give some historical context to what is happening now.
These are challenging times, make no mistake about that. Our own community is divided in ways we have rarely seen. It is easy to give in to despair and wrap ourselves in a cloak of anxiety and fear. Yet, let’s remember that our tradition, and the seder, counters this. The seder ends in hope. “Next year in Jerusalem”! Even if you do not take that literally, it is a symbol that we, as a Jewish community, always have hope. The Haftorah for this special Shabbat, from Ezekiel, offers the image of a rebuilt Israel, and so symbolically, there is always hope. The service ends with Alenu, a prayer that speaks to hope. So, in the middle of this trauma that we are witnessing, we cannot give up on the hope that reason will prevail. But, still we do ask, who will come forward to teach these lessons? Where are the Moses figures who ask the important questions, do not fear to confront reality and have the courage to lead and teach. For this we still wait, and hope.
Rabbi Richard F Address

Be the first to comment

What are your thoughts?

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.