“Then Moses called all the elders of Israel and said to them: ‘Go, select lambs for your families, and slaughter the Passover lamb. Take a bunch of hyssop, dip it in the blood that is in the basin, and touch the lintel and the two doorposts with the blood in the basin. None of you shall go outside the door of your house until morning. For the Lord will pass through to strike down the Egyptians; when he sees the blood on the lintel and on the two doorposts, the Lord will pass over that door and will not allow the destroyer to enter your houses to strike you down. You shall observe this rite as a perpetual ordinance for you and your children. When you come to the land that the Lord will give you, as he has promised, you shall keep this observance. And when your children ask you: “What do you mean by this observance?” You shall say: “It is the Passover sacrifice to the Lord, for he passed over the houses of the Israelites in Egypt, when he struck down the Egyptians but spared our houses.”’ And the people bowed down and worshiped. The Israelites went and did just as the Lord had commanded Moses and Aaron. At midnight the Lord struck down all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh who sat on his throne to the firstborn of the prisoner who was in the dungeon, and all the firstborn of the livestock. Pharaoh arose in the night, he and all his officials and all the Egyptians. And there was a loud cry in Egypt, for there was not a house without someone dead. Then he [Pharaoh] summoned Moses and Aaron in the night and said: ‘Rise up, go away from my people, both you and the Israelites! Go, worship the Lord, as you said. Take your flocks and your herds, as you said, and be gone. And bring a blessing on me too!’ The Egyptians urged the people to hasten their departure from the land, for they said: ‘We shall all be dead.’ So the people took their dough before it was leavened, with their kneading bowls wrapped up in their cloaks on their shoulders.”The Jewish holy week of Passover began at sundown on Mon Apr 14. The celebration of freedom continues eight days, through the evening of Tue Apr 22. The first two days and the last two days are full-fledged holidays: the middle four days are semi-festive. The first two days commemorate the 10th plague, when the mystery beyond naming killed all the firstborn of Egypt, but passed over the Israelites: hence Passover. At this, Pharaoh released the Israelites from bondage. They immediately fled. Pharaoh changed his mind and went chasing after them. A week later came the episode of the parting of the Red Sea, commemorated the last two days of Passover.
This is not history. It’s a story – a narrative metaphor available to us, as it has been to peoples through millennia, for structuring the meaning we make of our lives.
"Bring out the festal bread and sing songs of freedom."Celebrate and reflect on the blessing of freedom.
In parts of the world, full-scale slavery is still going on. If you're reading this blog, then chances are that you are not enslaved in that full-scale way and never have been. Even so, I would guess that there has been a metaphorical land of Egypt in your past in which you were bound and from which you now are free.
"Bring out the festal bread, and sing songs of freedom."Yet freedom is the half-won blessing. Modern pharaohs live unchallenged. Chains still there are to break, metal or subtle-made. Resentments, small or large, bind us. A further Exodus awaits us still. And further truth, bright as a burning bush, cries to become known.
We (we who are not under an unrelenting grind of oppression, nor consumed wholly with mere survival) stand midway between full-scale slavery and full-scale liberation. The unfinished work of freedom lies before us. So
bring out the festal bread and sing songs of freedom.* * *
This is part 1 of 5 of "The Half-Won Blessing"
Next: Part 2: No Easy Thing