Heros

mosesPassover, with its epic story of struggle, flight, and freedom, is a hero’s tale par excellence. In the Exodus story, like a clash of Titans, Moses confronts Pharaoh, and all nature erupts into devastating plagues. Moses’ stature as prophet and leader is unparalleled in all of Jewish history and lore.
So powerful is Moses’ image throughout the Exodus, the Rabbis feared he would be idolized. For this reason, the traditional Passover Seder contains no mention of the man. In the Haggadah, all power and agency is God’s alone. It’s the very same story told from a different narrative perspective to reveal another set of important and vital truths.
But it’s still not the whole story, and frankly our times today demand a substantive retelling yet again. There are unknown heroes without whose courage and perseverance the Exodus could never have happened at all. I’m talking about the common slaves who reached out to other slaves, mothers and fathers who shepherded their children as well as their ailing neighbors’, wise elders and young adults who shared their strengths. You know them, the quiet folks behind the scene offering their energy and meager resources, helping to push overburdened carts, handing out bits of unleavened bread as they walked, stooping to lift a stray toddler up to their shoulders.
Neither God nor Moses could have liberated the Israelite slaves without literally thousands and thousands of ordinary heroes with extraordinary courage responding to the crisis, stepping up in context of their specific lives, sharing what they had, watching out for their family and neighbors. We always talk about this slave horde that required Law and 40 years wandering to become a responsible nation, but all evidence of slave cultures points to networking, family and community cohesiveness that exists prior to liberation, before and independent of the heroic doings of a Moses or a Lincoln. Such was necessary for very survival. This laid the foundation for the heroic cooperative effort necessary for the Great Escape.
Though, thank God, none of us (here in this country) are yet slaves, today’s economic crisis requires this radical retelling of the Passover story. Unemployment and homelessness is on the rise. People are in fear for their future. Some in our own congregation have lost jobs, and many more of our neighbors face hunger and foreclosure. Though it is perhaps reassuring to have President Obama at the helm, his job and sphere of influence, while great, is still circumscribed. Like the ordinary heroes who made the Exodus fundamentally possible, we must look to ourselves and each other to bring ourselves and our communities through this crisis. Such heroes are already among us, attending the Temple board meetings after already long days, cheerfully serving at the soup kitchen, showing up at programs with cookies and good will, writing that donation check in spite of reduced circumstances. The names of these daily and occasional heroes may never grace the text of a history book, but we know who you are.
We know what we can do together.
This Passover, let us lift up the memory of our ordinary heroic ancestors and feel the pride of following in their footsteps. Let us succeed together, again.

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