By Yehudit Werchow, URJ Central Shlicha
.Originally posted on the Union for Reform Judaism blog
“וַאֲפִילוּ כֻּלָּנוּ חֲכָמִים כֻּלָּנוּ נְבוֹנִים / כֻּלָּנוּ יוֹדְעִים אֶת הַתּוֹרָה / מִצְוָה עָלֵינוּ לְסַפֵּר בִּיצִיאַת מִצְרָיִם”
“Even though all of us are wise, understanding and knowing of the Torah,
we are still obligated to tell the story of our Exodus from Egypt.”
My Haggadah is a musical one. The themes of Pesach inspire so many of my favorite Israeli musicians, and every year another musical Midrash is added to my Pesach collection. This music is one of the most precious gifts that Israeli life and culture contribute to the Jewish tradition.
Israeli rock guitarist, songwriter and singer Berry Sakharof reminds us that although we are all smart and wise, and most important, free—or at least have the possibility of enjoying the freedom that living in democratic modern societies grants us—many of us still are enslaved and/or enslave others. To each her own addiction. Whether materialistic or emotional, Pesach invites us to reenact the night of the Exodus and to take a leap of faith choosing the redeeming lightness of the matzah over the unbearable lightness of the enslavement of the chametz in our lives.
“Because we are all slaves
We are all someone’s addiction
What now asks you to feel
So what do we do with this anger?
What about the envy?
Everyone wants to be free
But from what, Lord, from what?”
Israeli singer-songwriter Eti Ankri in Yetziat Mitzrayim takes us to the days that followed the night our people left Egypt, singing about the challenges of the journey in the desert and the fear that makes us nostalgic, weakening our spirit and faith. “Sometimes I feel that we are still there, walking towards the mountain, begging for water”
Our journey from Egypt to Israel is more than a moment in our history or our memory. It is an ever evolving journey—from slavery to sovereignty, from powerlessness to powerful. The Haggadah is an invitation to an open, cross generational conversation about Jewish values, faith, resilience and justice. Eti Ankri’s words and melody take us back to that journey, inviting us to think about how we can overcome the challenges of our life’s journey. What calms us? What are our sources of strength? Hopefully, these thoughts will inspire us to renew our faith.
Surviving Mitzrayim also makes us responsible. Becoming powerful demands that we be cautious about how we use our power. It makes us responsible for protecting those who still are fighting for their freedom. Telling the story of our Exodus from Egypt should empower us—as Alma Zohar’s “Egypt” does—to look for modern “Mitzrayim” and fight against slavery and injustice wherever it exists.
Don’t you know that each day and age,
One and all must see himself,
As though having escaped Egypt,
So he won’t forget how he fled,
How he was beaten, bled, left dead,
How he called out to the heavens.
Don’t say “what do I have to do with those?!”
Yehudit Werchow is the Jewish Agency for Israel’s Central Shlicha for the Union for Reform Judaism.