Imagine a desperate man making his way on foot through a desert. Exhausted and thirsty beyond endurance he keeps driving himself forward, day by day, in the hope of reaching an oasis. Eventually, he can go no further and drops hopelessly to the hot sand. Rescuers discover his body only a half day’s walk from a large oasis.
Let’s rewind and replay the story with the same man. Except in this version, he knows exactly where the oasis is located. In this account, when he reaches the place where he gave up and died in the first story, he is exactly as exhausted and just as madly thirsty. Yet he does not give up and die. Why? Because he knows that redemption lies just over the next sand dune, a half-day away. Knowing—not hoping or believing, but knowing—that redemption is near endows us with superhuman powers. The mere knowledge that the oasis is near endowed this man with the power to overcome the heat and thirst.
It is hard to build a business. Urgent need for capital can entirely wear down even the hardiest entrepreneur. Gnawing worry morphs into fear that he won’t find the funds, diminishing the effectiveness of most business professionals in this unenviable position.
Compare that situation with an entrepreneur who is grappling with precisely the same pressures except that he knows that his next round of financing is happening in three weeks’ time. The knowledge that redemption is round the corner endows this human with astonishing powers.
Then there is the married couple struggling to hold their marriage together. One day he is doing his best while she feels it all to be futile; another day she is willing to move mountains in the hope of saving her marriage while he has emotionally checked out. As any counselor knows, the odds of a successful salvage are slim.
Now imagine that each is shown a future vision of their marriage so happy and solid that all recollection of past suffering has been expunged. Just the knowledge that they will be joyfully reconciled makes the hard repair work so much easier to accomplish.
This is one searing message of Passover. Yet, while Passover in the book of Exodus speaks of national redemption, we have already seen an example in Genesis of personal redemption. Let me offer a brief example of how ancient Jewish wisdom combines seemingly unrelated incidents to overwhelm us with a Technicolor extravaganza of Truth.
Here are the first two uses of an extremely rare word in Scripture—MiTMaMeHa, meaning delaying or lingering:
And he [Lot] lingered…
…and they [the Israelites] were not able to linger…
The word Matzoh is also common to the Israelite’s exodus from Egypt and Lot’s rescue from S’dom:
…and he made them a feast and he baked Matzoh…
…and with Matzoh on bitter herbs they ate it.
Let’s look at two more examples of the strong similarities that unite the account of the Israelites escaping from a doomed Egypt to safe refuge, and the account describing Lot and his daughters escaping from a doomed S’dom to safe refuge:
And God rained upon S’dom and Amorah sulfur and fire…
…and God rained hail upon the land of Egypt.
Ancient Jewish wisdom tells us that the hail had a fiery center.
Finally, the nation of Israel emerged from the Hebrews’ rescue out of Egypt and the nations of Amon and Moab emerged from Lot and his daughters’ rescue from S’dom.
Ancient Jewish wisdom explores the linkage. Passover teaches that not only is redemption available for one man and his family, but even on a national level, God can bring redemption where no hope exists.
Today, it is not only one family or one nation that is facing uncertainty, but many families and many nations. As humans, we can’t know for sure what lies ahead, but the next best thing is to know that a brighter future is possible. One of the great gifts that God gives His faithful is the eternal vision of tomorrow’s redemption no matter how dark it may look today. Knowing this in our heads and believing it deep in our hearts makes today’s journey bearable.
Before we close our store on Wednesday evening through nightfall on Saturday for the opening days of Passover, there is still an opportunity to acquire the How to Lead Your Own Seder download resource. I did not initially plan this teaching for this year but the events of the day propelled exactly that. Our amazing crew worked tirelessly to get it out, and we hope that it provides a blueprint of hope and optimism in these (temporarily) dark and lonely days.
The Seder observance can shine a bright light onto tomorrow for everyone. Using our resource, you and your family can make your own Seder and learn how to transform an ancient ritual into an inoculation against stagnation in all areas of life that really matter.
Two New Resources!
How to Lead Your Own Passover Seder
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52 Weekly Journaling Challenges from Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin