Friday, April 29, 2005

This week, I have been awakening to Mitrayim, awakening to the fact that we are still, even now, leaving Mitzrayim , awakening to the shackles of inequality, suffering, poverty, oppression, violence that afflict so many and that bind us all. Awakening. This year, we are slaves, we proclaim at our Seders.
Next year, we will all be free.
This Passover, for me, has been connected to the first half of the affirmation, to a waking feeling that we are all still enslaved, that our personal liberation is so limited when it comes amidst such widespread and collective suffering. How can we proclaim we are free? How can we deny that our own freedom is bound up inextricably in each other? How can we deny in that in a world filled with such inequality and suffering, our own liberation is itself bound and shackled a thousand times over? Ruth Messenger understands: Write your Senators! Let us turn to complete strangers and affirm, “I cannot be free without you.” Let us bring reconciliation and support to communities being destroyed by campaigns of violence. Let us bring clean water and health care to communities where millions are dying even now of preventable and treatable diseases, where people have been denied the right to life itself.

This is the bread of our affliction! Our ancestors ate it too in Mitzrayim. All who are hungry, Let them come and eat! All who are in need, Let them come celebrate Pesach! This year, we are in Mitrayim, but next year, we will arrive in Yisrael. This year, we are, all, slaves. Next year, we will all be free.

We can only leave Mitzrayim together.
We will only leave Mitzrayim together.

Pesach is Zman Cheruteinu. The time of our freedom. Not, I think, because we are free now. No, we are not free now. We are not free now. This year, we are slaves. This is the time of our struggle for freedom. We awaken to the struggle, and breath life into it, we invite the possibility of unprecedented transformation, of unprecedented liberation and redemption. Matzah is Bread of an instant, Bread removed from time, liberation that could not wait, liberation that manifests in an instant and yet continues to struggle emerge and grow for all time, in every generation. The Exodus of our ancestors was just the beginning. We live it experience it every year, and, lest we forget, we connect the resonant frequencies:

On the second day of Pesach, we read the story of King Josiah. He inherited a Jewish kingdom where Judaism itself and been all but completely lost. Josiah himself knew little of Jewish practice himself when he inherited the throne, until he found a Torah hidden in the mikdash, and read it, and rediscovered, and brought it to the people, and led a spiritual revival of unprecedented scope.

Eleven years ago, even as tension and conflict built to a fever pitch in South Africa, even as some families were stockpiling goods and weapons in anticipation of imminent civil war, election day came, and, quite suddenly and unexpectedly, there was peace. And everyone came to vote. Ancient grandmothers had themselves carried out of mountain huts in wheelbarrows to cast their ballots. So now, this week, there was Freedom Day in South Africa, to mark this moment of miraculous transformation, and to raise voices and hands to bring the freedom that still needs to come here.

Ezekiel understood: such struggle for liberation is as miraculous as resurrection itself. Coalescing calendars means that many congregations will not read his words communally this year, so I will post a very rough translation here. Keep in mind that the word for bone and the word for essence are the same (Etzem):

The hand of the Lord came upon me,
and me carried out in the spirit of the Lord
and set me down in the midst of the valley
and it was full of bones
And He brought me upon them round and round
and here!
Exceedingly many on face of the valley
and here!
Exceedingly dry.
And he said to me
“Son of Man, can these bones become alive?”
And I answered
“Lord G!d, you know!”
And He said to me
“Prophesy over these dry bones
and say to them
‘Dry bones, Hear the word of the Lord ‘
So says Lord G!d to these bones:
I bring into you the spirit and you will live
And you will know
That I am the Lord.’”
So I prophesied as I was commanded
And there was a voice as I prophesied
And here a noise
And the bones drew close,
Bone to its bone!
And I saw,
And here!
Ligaments were upon them,
and flesh came up on them,
and skin covered them form above
and there was no spirit in them.
And He said to me,
“Prophesy to the spirit,
Prophesy, son of man
And say to the spirit,
‘So says the Lord God:
From four sides, come, O spirit, and breathe into these slain ones that they may live.’”
And I prophesied as He had commanded me,
And the spirit came into them,
And they lived and stood on their feet
A very exceedingly great army.
Then He said to me,
“son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel.
Behold, they say,
‘Our bones have become dried up,
our hope is lost,
we are clean cut off to ourselves’
Therefore, prophesy and say to them,
So says the Lord God:
I open your graves
and cause you to come up out of your graves as My people
And I will put My spirit in you
And you will live
And I will set you on your land
And you will know that I, the Lord, have spoken it and performed it,’”
declares the Lord.

To freedom. Together.