By Rabbi Idan Scher, Machzikei Hadas
I am writing this two days before Passover and although it will be just before Yom Ha’Atzmaut by the time you read it, I cannot seem to get my mind off of Passover and, specifically, our Exodus from Egypt.
I am thinking about the idea that the Jewish people left Egypt in “haste.” It seems very clear that God intended for them to leave in a hurried fashion. In fact, the Jewish people were commanded to eat the Pesach offering “with their loins girded, their shoes on their feet, and their staff in their hand,” completely prepared for the trip out of Egypt, so that the moment they were told to leave, they could do so. It seems as if there was concern that if they would not leave in haste, they would have second thoughts, they would conclude that “Egypt is not so bad,” and they would not take that daunting step into the wilderness to realize their national destiny.
There would be a moment of inspiration when God would say, “Go,” and if they did not seize that moment of inspiration, we quite possibly could have still been slaves in Egypt today. Remember, too, that even after they left in haste, they had moments of second thought.
When you think about it, life is like that. We all want to live inspired lives. We all want to live really meaningful lives suffused with truth and goodness. But day-to-day life all too often holds us back from our aspirations. The lesson here is that living an inspired life does not just happen on its own, because inspiration fades so quickly. Living an inspired life requires conscious effort. It requires setting time during the day to recalibrate. This, by the way, is one of the many beautiful layers of meaning in our three times daily prayer obligations.
It means seeking out moments of inspiration, not expecting them to come to us. And it means taking advantage of each moment of inspiration that we find. A discerning eye and heart can find a plethora of inspiration all around, and we are blessed to have a community committed to offering these moments of inspiration as much and as often as possible.
But the point is, if we are not invested in taking the inspiration around us and translating it into something concrete in our lives, and with some immediacy, then the inspiration will fade and we are left where we started. There is a line connecting Passover to Yom Ha’Atzmaut that further develops our point.
We left Egypt in haste, yet we were able to endure 2,000 years of exile! For a people in a hurry, that is a long time. For anyone, that is a long time. How were we able to combine the haste of leaving with the patience of waiting? Perhaps in our reliving the Exodus every year at the seder, we gained a deeper understanding of the haste.
We left quickly, but we waited hundreds of years until that great moment came. We had the patience to be ready for the redemptive moment! The rebirth of Israel combines these two capacities: the patience to survive through the travail of exile, followed by the haste to rebuild. How else can you explain the unbelievable achievements of Israel in such a short time?