When Cecil B. Demille made the film "The Ten Commandments," it might have made more sense calling the film "The Exodus." Afterall, the bulk of the film centers on the Exodus experience. In fact, on the Universal Studios tour, they don't show you God inscribing the tablets on Mt. Sinai. They show you the Red Sea parting. I suspect DeMille chose the title of the film deliberately. I don't know the extent to which he studied biblical and rabbinic literature, but numerous clues in Jewish tradition show us that Sinai was the culmination of one long journey -- and the beginning of an even longer one.
The cliché, "Life is a journey, not a destination," rings true when we consider the Israelites' journey from Egypt to Sinai. On the seventh day of Passover, we recall the ultimate step in the redemption of the Israelites from Egypt. Pinned against the sea with the Egyptian army in hot pursuit of their fugitive slaves, the sea opens. The Israelites cross safely and the Egyptians drown.
The story is dramatic and grand. Yet the rabbis in the Midrash suggest that it wasn't so simple. There had to be some other steps in the process. Nahshon is mentioned as the humble Israelite who takes the first step into the water. Only when the water is up to his head does the sea part. The moral lesson in the story is, of course, that in order for miracles to happen, we have to have faith in God and faith in ourselves. We have to walk on our own two feet and create our own reality.
Much of what we celebrate this season is the majesty of life unfolding one step at a time. That is how we experience life. Indeed, during this spring festival, we celebrate birth and renewal in nature. We take note of the fragility and miracle of life itself. The Song of Songs, read during Passover, paints images of young lovers in spring time taking those crucial first steps of courtship to pave the way for their lifetime together -- one step at a time.
In "The New American Haggadah" (Jonathan Safran Foer, Ed.), Nathaniel Deutsch in his commentary "House of Study" alludes to the unfolding of life in small bits, rather than grandiose events. At the end of the Passover seder, after we've told the great story of the Exodus, we sing a folk song about a simple goat.
Deutsch writes: "'Chad Gadya'" begins with 'one little goat' and ends with the One God. On the path from the one to the other, there are no shortcuts."
"In Judaism -- as in Chad Gadya -- the path to God is marked by small steps rather than giant leaps. We cannot reach God through the grandest gesture, yet we cannot avoid reaching him through the humblest act."
If we learned this message from Passover alone, that would be powerful. However, during Passover, we begin counting the Omer. We count one day at a time. We count seven full weeks of 49 days. Only then do we celebrate the ultimate redemption from slavery: the Divine revelation and the receipt of the Torah.
Passover is important, but Passover is incomplete. In celebrating our freedom, we celebrate our ability to enjoy life, one precious day at a time. Each day we encounter other human beings and have the task to create and foster meaningful relationships. We have a new chance each day to bring love and compassion into the world. Of course, this is true throughout the year; however, the ritual of counting the Omer brings focus to this concept over seven weeks. Counting the days between Passover and Shavuot reminds us that that nothing less than our redemption comes about one step at a time, one day at a time, one good deed at a time.
Join the conversation and community by visiting the Omer liveblog on HuffPost Religion, which features blogs, prayers, art and reflections for all 49 days of spiritual reflection between Passover and Shavuot.
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