“We are on the map and not only in basketball but in everything!” said the Maccabi Tel Aviv’s Captain, Tal Brody, in his American accented Hebrew as the mike was pushed into his sweaty, beaming face, immediately after the team’s miraculous victory in 1977 against the formidable and then Olympic world champion’s team, the Red Army’s basketball team.
In life, each of us has an Exodus story, whether as part of a bigger exodus as the Russian Exodus, the Ethiopian Exodus, or simply our own, smaller but not less important, Exodus. A moment where he has to put everything on the line. To leave the comfort of the day to day routine and follow his dream, to believe there is more to life then being the slave to someone else’s “master’s plan” and to follow a higher calling.
How many times have we heard that inner voice that said to us- we need, we can, we must- do it? How many times have we silenced that voice? How many times have we wondered what would have happened had we listened to it?
Tal Brody was drafted 12th in the NBA, so were Jim Boatwright and others who gave up Harvard college and promising law degrees, or basketball fame and money to live and train in a small and dangerous land while their parents, I am sure, cried tears of fear when they heard of their children’s decisions (as did most Jews when Moses asked them to enter Israel after most of the spies, 10 out of 12, reported it was impossible to survive the enemies in Canaan, as did the friends and parents of the Jews leaving to Israel who imbued in the Russian propaganda believed before 1967 that the Jews emigrating to Israel were heading for their second holocaust). And yet they made the Exodus, they undertook the Aliyah (Aliyah literally means to go up to something and is used to describe an immigration to Israel, as that action is felt to bring the person to a higher spiritual state- closer to G-d), and became a part of a team and a nation that would raise the people and make the dream a reality.
The story of Passover has many lessons and many firsts. One of the firsts is our Haggadah and the rebranding of our nation’s image which was always known as “Jews are the people of the book!” But… we have broken the chains of that stereotype by proving we not only can be the writers of the ideas but also we can be its implementers. As another father leader, Theodor Herzl, would say ~3,300 years after our first Exodus, when he prepared the Jews for another Exodus: “If you want it, it isn’t a Haggadah!”
But wanting and believing in an Exodus is not enough. The inner voice that gives shape to our subconscious desires must be freed for us to have peace and find fulfilment in this life, so we can truly be alive.
We often say Moses was a leader because he could see things others did not, such as the burning bush (which some claim was burning for awhile, waiting for someone to notice the peculiarity of the vision- the bush was burning but was not consumed by the flames). Yes, being curious, as Einstein famously said, is more important than being knowledgeable. But taking the action, choosing the road “less traveled by”, as Robert Frost famously said in his poem, “made all the difference.” Moses could have remained in the castle as a privileged prince of Egypt. He had a promising future. Who needed the headache of standing up for some poor Jew who was maltreated by an Egyptian overseer? Yet he did what was right, and paid the physical price of losing his position and becoming an outcast having to escape to Midyan. And then being happy in his new simple, peaceful life in Midyan, married with children, he had a battle with G-d and with his inner voice that debated until he chose the road less traveled by, not for rational reasons but because sometimes you need to just do it, otherwise you will always keep inventing excuses why you can’t or shouldn’t do it.
And that is what Exodus is about, taking the road less traveled by, literally and metaphorically. We too, in our Exodus from Egypt could have reached Israel much faster but the Jews took a road less traveled with Moses, and that path that Pharaoh thought was a sign we were lost ended up being flipped as during our recently passed holiday of Purim (where Haman prepared a gallow to hung Mordecai the Jew and ended up being hanged on that gallow himself), leading to Pharaoh’s loss. The Jewish people whose fruit and pride Pharaoh tried to drown lead to the drowning of his nation’s cream of the crop, his unbeatable army. But not by the malice of the Israelites did this victory take place, but by the blinded hate of the Egyptians who wanted to follow the road of the Jews, a road they chose for the wrong reason. That road was created for the children of G-d to follow in his path, and not for those who tried to follow it in order to murder them.
The Mitzrim (Egyptians) tried to make a Matzor (a barrier to the Jews’ escape) but faced a barrier of the ocean’s water themselves. And the rha (the bad) that Pharaoh tried to do the Jews backfired and destroyed his empire, helping the Jews forge a new nation.
And so too happened with Hitler who worked to death many of our people in slave camps, and who had millions of Jews murdered by gunshot, poison, and burning. His fate was the same, as the tables were reversed on him: he died by gunshot wound, his wife poisoned, and both of them burnt with gasoline- 3 days after passover (3 days after Pesach Sheni) ended. And the biggest victory against his decree to unite the world in annihilating the Jews was the support of the UN, largely due to his atrocities, for the creation of a land for the Jews in their historical homeland, Israel.
Exodus is and always will remain relevant, to people of the book and of the deeds.
Our people are alive and well. We will retell the story and not forget. Our story is not a Haggadah, we are and we will remain on the map in everything! “Am Yisrael Hai!” Happy Passover to my people & the world.