We are in the midst of that transformational epic Jewish creation myth known as the Exodus. This is the beginning of the discussion of our core identity a God who has freed us from bondage so that we may serve. There is an inherent tension in this idea freedom and service juxtaposed. But also at play is our meaning relative to this Eternal One. When do we actually count? Are we only meaningful in a corporate existence in the arc of history, or do individuals matter?
The narrative begs the question by leading with being remembered after 210 years sojourning in Egypt. Then God remembers and 600thousand with their families are lead out. We cross into the wilderness and begin a two-week trek to the Promised Land that takes 40 years, a deliberate amount of time so that the entire generation that was freed will not survive to reach their goal. What about those poor souls who suffered during 210 years of deteriorating conditions in Egypt? What about those poor souls who would have found satisfaction with enough food to eat and water to drink and would have returned to bondage just for those basic needs? There are many who did not make it along the way. What about them?
For so many of us, living in this new Promised Land came at the expense of untold millions who suffered harsh lives and died ignominious deaths at human hands that practiced hate. How do we remember them properly, with respect and the knowledge that were it not for them, we would not be here. Can we simply say “there but for the grace of God Go I” that we are merely the lucky ones? Aren’t we compelled to practice an active gratitude acknowledging and cherishing those who have come before to make our lives possible and using our blessings and positions to help those who continue to struggle, who have not experienced full redemption? Our tradition suggests that it is our responsibility, not God’s.
When we say goodbye to someone we grieve the loss as we should. The tradition says Zichrono Livracha- May their memory be a blessing. Our task is to fulfill this aspiration and continue to journey.