Exposition Tradition: Bo 2021

by Adam J. Rosenbaum

Pre-Game Chatter: Do you know the origins of your family’s traditions? Have some of the reasons behind these traditions been lost to history? Are there differences of opinion as to how some of these traditions came to be?

On the verge of the Exodus from Egypt, God notes that this experience will be the reason for traditions for years to come:

The Pitch: “You shall observe this as an institution for all time, for you and for your descendants. And when you enter the land that the Lord will give you, as He has promised, you shall observe this rite. And when your children ask you, ‘What do you mean by this rite?’, you shall say, ‘It is the passover sacrifice to the Lord, because He passed over the houses of the Israelites in Egypt when He smote the Egyptians, but saved our houses.’ The people then bowed low in homage.” – Exodus 12:24-27

Swing #1: “In his command that the Israelites recount the story to their children and grandchildren, God seems to acknowledge that the stories of his great deeds on behalf of his people are a narrative that binds the people together as a cohesive religious community. The command to tell these stories to each generation is, in a sense, a self-fulfilling command that constructs the cultural identity of its primary audience.” – Ronald Hendel, Remembering Abraham: Culture, Memory, and History in the Hebrew Bible

Swing #2: “All of the story now has a point: the rituals by which the people Israel remember their debt to God for their liberation from bondage. … It is one thing to eat a roast lamb with the family, it is another thing entirely to eat it as the Paschal Lamb, over which the memory of freedom is ritually invoked.” – Burton L. Visotsky, The Road to Redemption: Lessons From Exodu on Leadership and Community

Swing #3: “[The Israelites] are acknowledging their desire for a particular kind of narrative, one in which they will be involved in tasting the Passover offering. They are acknowledging the questioning that will follow an event that is yet to happen.” – Avivah Gottlieb Zornberg, The Particulars of Rapture

Late-Inning Questions: Is it strange that the Israelites agree to remember the Exodus before it actually happens? Does it show a faith in God, or simply a hope that God will fulfill the promise of liberation? What lessons does this passage teach us about remembering history? Should we be more deliberate in how we memorialize the past?

On-Deck at Temple Beth Tzedek: We look forward to celebrating Tu Bishvat on Thursday, January 28th, from 6:15-7:00pm, following evening minyan. Drive by the Temple on Sunday the 24th between 11am and 1:00pm to pick up Tu Bishvat goodies and to drop off non-perishable food for those in need, and then join us for our Seder on the 28th by logging onto the weekday minyan Zoom link.

The Big Inning at the End: Henry Aaron was not only a great baseball player, but also a great American, displaying dignity and decency until the very end. May he rest in peace.

Shabbat Shalom!