Rabbi Label Lam
Jogging Ancient Memories
In each and every generation a person is obligated to see himself as if he
went out of Egypt. (Talmud Pesachim- Haggada)
Is this just a game or a play that we are about to act out for the 3315th
time? How are we to really see ourselves as if it was us that went out of
Egypt on that night?
It's a little like that bad joke. The general caught wind that his troops
were grumbling about the quality of the food so he decided to give them a
tough minded lecture. He asked rhetorically, "Do you think Napoleon's men
at Waterloo complained that the bread was stale?!" A small voice
interrupted, "No sir! It was fresh then!" How do we relive and experience
in all earnest an event that happened so long ago? It was fresh then!
Rabbi Shimon Schwab zl. brought the subject closer to home with the
following analogy. It's a known scientific phenomenon that every seven
years or so every cell in the human body is cycled out and replaced that is
except for the brain cells.
It's a remarkable feat that's worthy of admiration, awe, and of course
extreme gratitude, as we say three times daily, "We shall thank You and
relate Your praise- for our lives which are committed to Your power...for
Your miracles that are with us every day, and for Your wonders and
kindliness at each moment- evening morning and afternoon..."
There are 60 Trillion cooperative cells in the adult human. Every second 8
million blood cells die and are replaced. We continue to function as each
delicate brick is systematically replaced. Wow!
Therefore every seven years we are almost entirely new people. Hey, maybe
we can make that fact work to our advantage. Do you think that a court in
the land would accept the following argument? 21 Years into a 30- year
mortgage I decide to leave the agreement to pay the loan based on the
premise, "It's not me! I've changed three times since that paper was
signed! It was somebody else who signed on the dotted line!" Absurd!
Right? A husband turns to his wife of seven years and says, "You're not the
woman I married!" Can he just walk away? No! Why not?
When I started to run regularly a few years ago it wasn't easy getting
started. The young Dr. who had encouraged me to begin and who was kind
enough to coach me at first once told me, "This should be easy for
you. You used to be an athlete and muscles have memories." I answered him
back, "Well, I think mine have Alzheimer's!" It took a while for the
muscles and me to wake from their lethargy and remember but they eventually
When we look at the Jewish People over history it is similar to the way we
might view ourselves over the course of our lives. There are my baby
pictures. I was seven pounds and seven ounces then, only two trillion
cells. That's me again at the Bar Mitzvah, at the wedding and again twenty
years later, a little more gray and a few trillion cells paunchier, a
little less vigorous but in some ways wiser and in other ways more
foolish. It's all me!
When we imagine the configuration of the nation as described in the Exodus,
that was us, the Jewish Nation in our infancy. There we are again
receiving the Torah. Now we are entering the Land of Israel. Here we are
now thousands of uninterrupted years later with a different group of
individual cells but the core is still the same. The brain cells have
The experiences and the commitments of thousands of years are etched into
our psyche today and are as relevant and binding as they were as the time
that they originally happened. The Pesach Seder may not be an exercise in
education or imagination as much as it is just jogging ancient memories.
Text Copyright © 2003 Rabbi Label Lam and
Project Genesis, Inc.