Friday, April 18, 2014

Let My People Go

“Departure of the Israelites" by David Roberts (1829)
About half way through the Passover holiday you start thinking about bagels. You crave bagels because you can’t have them. It’s not the same as wanting a matzah on Chanukah. The craving is not so bad since you know you can have it. The matzah is supposed to remind one of the Exodus. But now you don’t feel free. When will your liberation from matzah come? There is a concoction called the matzah bagel, but that just doesn’t cut it. Living without bagels becomes like one of those indignities you suffer when you can’t do something for one reason or another. Your knee blows out and you have to forego the workout regimen. Your wireless internet connection is down. Your beloved corner coffee nook relocates five blocks away. You console yourself with the thought of loyally traipsing the extra distance in the rain, knowing full well that you’re going to have to find a new and nearer place to have those meaningful talks. You can’t sleep in Sunday morning because a water main has burst and they’re opening up the street. The neighborhood bowling alley where you  spent so many rainy and joyous Saturday afternoons with your kids finally closes for good. The local library where you read the paper is closing for renovations. After all these years freeloading you will actually have to  buy your Times. How can you survive without those things that are a source of comfort—like the bagel? Passover is a celebratory holiday, but the theme of sacrifice runs through the liturgy (and let us not forget that a Seder was probably Jesus’ Last Supper). Could it be that learning to live without a bagel is telling us something about what it means to be free?

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