Emanuel Synagogue

A Passover message

There is an idea articulated by our Rabbis that is central to the festival of Passover for the Jewish people. It is that the Divine intervention, which led to the exodus from Egypt, and the subsequent freedom from slavery was given to the children of Israel bhinam– for free. 

The Rabbis acknowledged this miracle -of Divine intervention- but were also uncomfortable with it. Our sages taught that Divine assistance should always be preceded by human effort first, after all that is the purpose of the mitzvot- commandments, which form the basis for the whole Rabbinic system.  

During the exodus from Egypt however, God came to the aid of Israel and Israel did not have to expend any effort, they didnt organise any revolutionary committees or march out in mass protests to liberate themselves from slavery. How does our tradition understand the purpose for this Divine assistance that didnt require Israel to lift a finger, at least initially? 

A friend of mine once explained it to me in this way. Imagine that you are a mountain climber. You see the beauty and majesty of the mountain top from the base camp and are taken to the peak by helicopter. There you have a panoramic view of the whole area, you see the whole pictureand experience an epiphany of sorts.

Its so beautiful and majestic that you want to stay up there and remain in that peak experience but something is missing. Deep in your heart you know that the experience cannot be truly integrated into the core of your being unless you make the effort to climb the mountain yourself. 

Passover is that free helicopter ride to the top of the mountain given to us by the Source of all Life. However, our tradition also teaches that we must be taken back down to the base camp and make that climb ourselves, for nothing is truly gained if it is bestowed upon us without our effort. Furthermore, we must choose to climb that mountain for no one can climb it for us. It is up to us to cultivate the desire and willpower to meet the challenge of the climb. 

Moses, who is cast as the spokesperson for God in the Exodus narrative, said to Pharaoh, Let my people go so that they may serve me.” (Exodus 5:1). We are only able to be truly free when we dedicate ourselves, in our own unique and special ways to partnering with The Source of all Life in the tikkun- the healing and repair of our broken world. This is our sacred task as Israel. As we climb the mountain we learn, with each step how to channel our yezter hara, -our selfish inclination and in so doing find personal balance. When we have achieved balance, we are then able to use our unique talents to be of service to the greater good. Our Passover story and the commandment to make it relevant and compelling to each generation- vhigadti lvincha is more urgent in our time than ever before. We are facing problems that if not confronted will do irreparable damage to humanity, our planet and the awesomely diverse manifestations of life here. 

On Tuesday, April 19th at 6pm our synagogue in collaboration with JewSi- Jewish Sustainability Initiative will be hosting an Environmental Seder.  We will be using a haggadah authored by Rabbi Ellen Bernstein who has been at the forefront of Jewish environmental advocacy in the United States and around the world for decades. We will discover how our tradition calls upon all of us to be loving responsible stewards of our breathtakingly, awe-inspiring planet and all life upon it. I would like to encourage you all to come and join us for a seder, a night of learning and celebration in a community that will inspire all of us to make a difference in a world that needs us to understand and act on this message of Passover, now more than ever!

Hag kasher vsameah  

Rabbi Mordecai.


Emanuel Synagogue
7 Ocean Street
Woollahra, NSW 2025

Contact Us

p: 02 9389 6444

e: info@emanuel.org.au

Shabbat Times

Parashat Lech-Lecha
Shabbat, October 31, 2020
13th of Cheshvan, 5781

Candle Lighting
Friday, October 9  6:57PM

Motzei Shabbat 7:03PM

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