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by Lawrence Stroll    
Torah from Dixie Staff Writer    

This column tracks the e-mail correspondence between two friends. David is twenty-something,single, and non-observant. Ari is thirty-something, married with kids, and a ba’al teshuvah (returnee to traditional Torah observance). The younger friend is at a time in his life when he is looking for “more” (i.e. seeking spiritual growth and personal development) and generally writes to his older friend in search of advice. The older friend tries to provide useful and solid advice by drawing on the Torah portion of that week.

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Dear Ari, Well it’s that time of year again. I’m sure you remember. I e-mail you to complain about having to waste two nights at a Passover seder and you share with me some words of wisdom, sprinkled with a pinch of Jewish guilt, to convince me of the benefits of actually attending both nights. Well, this year it’s a little different since I’ve actually committed to attending two seders. What I would like to know, however, is why we spend so much time belaboring the issue of getting out of Egypt. pyramids, slavery, prince of Egypt, the 10 Commandments, splitting of the Red Sea, blood, frogs, yada, yada, yada. Haven’t we heard this story enough? Why do we revisit the same old story year in and year out?

Sincerely, Enslaved by Ritual

 

Dear David,

Thanks for letting me off easy this year! After so many years I would be hard pressed to come up with another creative reason for why your time wouldn’t be wasted attending two seders instead of one, save how disappointed your poor Jewish mother would be if she ever found out. (Sorry, I couldn’t forego a cheap shot in the name of Jewish guilt.) Seriously, though, your question regarding the significance of Egypt is a profound one. Why is it that the story of the exodus is so significant that it bears constant revision every year (not to mention, daily mention in our prayers)? This week’s Torah portion gives us a hint as to why this is so.

This week’s Torah portion continues with a discussion of the Temple service and performing of various "offerings." These sacrificial Temple offerings were designed to bring us closer to Hashem. Today, in their place, we have prayer; and used properly, prayer can help bring one closer to Hashem. The exodus, however, was G-d’s way of bringing Himself closer to us.

Think about it for a moment. We were slaves! In it’s time, Egypt was a Holocaust of sorts. We were being worked to the bone and oppressed in unimaginable ways. Jewish children were being killed moments after they were born, while Jewish adults were being beaten until they were dead. Hashem literally heard our painful cry and delivered us from these and many other atrocities of the time. If one contemplates the entire story of the exodus from its inception to its execution, one can appreciate the divine manner by which we were saved. This was G-d’s way of showing us that He is involved in our daily life—both on a national level and an individual level.

The exodus was not some miraculous occurrence observed by a few people, but an event of truly epic proportions. We are told that when the splitting of the sea occurred, every single body of water around the world split (cups of water included). So, not only did the Jews recognize that G-d was on our team, but so did everyone else.

In discussing the offerings, this week’s Torah portion goes on to mention that the ashes of the previous day’s service were to be placed at the side of the altar before the current day’s service began. Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch comments that this symbolized that on the current day we were continuing to serve Hashem as we did the day before. In a similar vein, I would suggest that our annual seders (in addition to our daily prayer service) is testament that we as a people acknowledge the miracle of the exodus and demonstrate to G-d that we recognize that He truly does care about us—even if we do not have the insight to perceive it all that often.

Sincerely, Doing My Part to Connect with G-d

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Lawrence Stroll is a financial planner and Family Wealth Counselor with Geller Financial Advisors in Atlanta.

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