By Rabbi Gregory S. Marx
Every faith community has a story of redemption. But what we need to be redeemed from is what divides us.
The Buddhist believes that we need to be saved from suffering. The Buddha taught that all of life is suffering, and we must figure out a way to end craving. Our Christian brothers and sisters argue that it is sin that oppresses us. They teach that faith alone can save.
Judaism also believes in redemption and being saved. I remember a number of years ago someone erroneously saying to me, “The Jews do not need to be saved.” Nothing could be farther from the truth. We tell a story of redemption as well, but it is not from sin or suffering. It is from oppression.
The story of Passover is not a story that resonates in an ashram or in some exotic fashion. It is a story that reminds us that there are forces of oppression all around us. They drag us down and prevent us from being fully human. We are saved by righteous action, or mitzvoth. We can redeem the world in partnership with God by living a life of goodness and mitzvoth.
Our ancestors left Egypt, because they were seeking freedom from oppression. It is a story that takes place in history. No redemption is experienced in the next world. It is rather a march from Egypt to Israel. While our faith does speak about peace in the “World to Come,” our story is perhaps the most important one ever told: we can overcome poverty, illness, war, bloodshed, and slavery.
Sadly, not enough Jews know their own story. We resonate with the narratives of other faiths and fail to appreciate what Passover is all about. We need to be a “light unto ourselves” before we can arrogate to ourselves the heady role and responsibility of being a “light unto the nations.”
Our story is challenging. Our story is chock-full of responsibility. Our story is empowering. Our story is enchanting. Our story is, simply put … our story. May we have the noble and necessary chutzpa to reclaim her.
Since the exodus, as a friend once said, “All liberation movements speak with a Yiddish accent.”
Rabbi Marx is the spiritual leader at Congregation Beth Or.