By Rabbi Mark S. Glickman
(AJNews) – The story isn’t over. Of all the many messages bursting forth from our Passover Haggadah, that’s one of the most important of all.
The Haggadah, as we know, is a magnificent work of rabbinic literature, a seder- table liturgy that allows us to recount and relive our ancestors’ experience of leaving slavery. The story begins with our people’s forced servitude in Egypt. Over the course of the evening, it moves to the plagues, the Red Sea, and our forty-year journey through the desert. But where does it end? When does the story conclude?
When is it time for the credits to roll?
The answer is, that it doesn’t. Yes, the story began in Egypt, but it has continued to unfold ever since then, even today.
Consider Dayyeinu, the popular Pesach song whose one-word Hebrew refrain takes seven words to translate into English: It would have been enough for us. “Had G-d brought us out of Egypt and not parted the sea for us,” the song begins, “Dayyeinu – it would have been enough for us.”
“Had G-d parted the sea, and not allowed us to cross to dry land,” it continues, “Dayyeinu – that would have been enough for us.” Had G-d only sustained us for forty years, fed us manna, or performed any of the individual miracles to lead us toward redemption, each of those would have been enough.
And the last stanza of the song? The ending? The great conclusion? “Had G-d given us prophets of truth and not made us a holy people, Dayyeinu, it would have been enough for us.” The conclusion of the song, in other words, brings us to the time when we are a people called to holiness, and that time is today. The story continues to unfold even now, millennia after it began in ancient Egypt.
Consider Chad Gadya, the story of the little goat that “my father bought for two zuzim.” The goat in this song, of course, is much more than just a goat. It represents the Jewish people. And just as our people has repeatedly been oppressed in the past, so too does a cat come along in this song and devour the goat. But the cat, in turn, just like all our oppressors, gets its due when, in the next verse, it gets bitten by a dog. The dog then gets beaten by a stick, the stick burned by a fire, the fire quenched with water, and the water consumed by an ox. Then the song takes a darker turn, as the ox gets slaughtered by a butcher, the butcher slain by the Angel of Death, and the Angel of Death vanquished by none other than G-d Him-Her-Itself.
We have enemies, the song reminds us. But those enemies will fall to enemies of their own. And eventually, in times to come, death itself will fall prey to the G-d of Life.
Those who cause us pain, in other words, won’t be around forever. And soon the ultimate cause of pain – death – will itself come to an end. We may be suffering now, but the story is far from over.
Consider the final line of the Haggadah – “Next year in Jerusalem!” Jerusalem, of course, represents the world as it can be, the world redeemed. We might be suffering now, the Haggadah reminds us, but next year (or maybe the year after), life itself will be transformed for the better. If things aren’t perfect yet, that’s only because we haven’t waited long enough. The story isn’t over.
The fact that our story hasn’t yet ended is important for us to remember in this imperfect world, for it can remind us that better times are yet to come. Life might be difficult now, but next year, things may be better. Next year, life will have improved.
So, as you sit down to your Passover seder this year you may want to keep this in mind. Yes, the economy is in the tank; yes, most of us are still waiting for our vaccines; yes, our kids may not have launched, and the roof may have a leak, and the boss might be mean. But the story’s not over yet. New chapters have yet to unfold.
New sunrises have yet to shine. New opportunities have yet to open. We haven’t yet reached the Promised Land, but just wait – amazing things still can happen.
The story, you see, is still far from over.
Rabbi Mark Glickman is the spiritual leader at Temple B’nai Tikvah, Calgary’s Reform Congregation.