And this day shall be for you as a memorial, and you shall celebrate it as a festival for HASHEM; throughout your generations, you shall celebrate it as an everlasting statute. (Shemos 12:14)
Now isn’t this a curious statement!? The Torah is writing down 3,332 years ago that we will be keeping this day as an everlasting statute, and here we are 3,332 years later munching on Matzos and reviewing the event so the exodus from Egypt on this very same day without fail. Do we persistently keep this day because it is written so or is it written so because it’s a fact that we will persistently keep it!? In either case it’s a profound fact of life and an undeniable truth that here we are thousands of years later holding on to Pesach with the same ferocious tenacity. Let’s appreciate how truly amazing this is.
Cultural trends and fashions come and like the seasons. Some stay a little longer and are deemed classic and others are one hit wonders that fade and disappear like last year’s snow. How many songs seemed like they would be sung forever at the time they were popular but they went quietly into the good night and have been forgotten.
What we thought was hip or cool or with it when we were young is not something we would be caught doing later in life. That’s how fast things lose their flavor even in the course of a brief lifetime.
How many trends last from generation to generation? How many scientific paradigms have been challenged and reconstructed over the last hundreds of years!? Which system of governance has successfully lasted more than a few hundreds of years!? Who can possibly predict which family or group will be prominent or dominant in 5 or 10 years? How can the Torah spell out with confidence that this is what we will be doing many thousands of years after the events of Yetzias Mitzraim should have become a faint echo!?
The truth is that it may not be as long ago as we think of it and this does not diminish the point. I was thinking recently about something that a friend told me and I was trying to remember when he said it and I was able to anchor it to a date near the birth of one of my children and realized that it was 25 years ago. Then I started thinking that 25 years is a quarter of a century. Four 25-year periods are a whole century. 25 years, to me, is not a long period of time. The exodus from Egypt and the giving of the Torah was about 3,330 years ago and that is only One Hundred and Thirty-Three – 25-year periods.
That doesn’t sound so impossibly far back, distant, and ancient as perhaps we are used to thinking about it. It’s still a long time ago and who in the universe could or would feel confident to write in a book that they hoped would endure, that the people of that book would be as loyal as we have been!?
That is a question worthy of contemplating, I do believe and the answer may be in these words from a very great Torah scholar.
Rabbi Yaakov Emden noted almost three hundred years ago: “Many have tried to injure us or wipe us out. While all the great ancient civilizations have disappeared and been forgotten-The Nation of Israel who clings to HASHEM is alive today! What will the wise historian answer when he examines this phenomenon without prejudice? Was this all purely by chance? By my soul, when I contemplated these great wonders of our continued existence, they took on greater significance than all the miracles and wonders that HASHEM, Blessed Be He, performed for our fathers in Egypt, in the desert, and when they entered the Land of Israel. And the longer this exile extends, the miracle of Jewish existence becomes more obvious to make known G-d’s mastery and supervision over nature and history.
Since he penned these words a lot of water has passed over the dam and a lot of blood has been spilled and we are still here and here we will continue to be. The echo of the exodus is not fainter; it is even stronger. How is that possible? Usually as we move further from a physical phenomenon the weaker its influence becomes. Why is it not the case here? One obvious answer is that this is true by a materialistic experience but by a spiritual event the effect is intensified and clarified with time.
One of my teachers once explained to us that when one enters a tunnel he is guided by the light at the mouth of the entrance to the tunnel for a period of time and then the original light will begin to dim and fade. There may be a period of darkness and panic until one finds themselves being drawn and attracted to the light at the end of the tunnel. We are all in a tunnel called history, exile, world. The Exodus and Matan Torah provided the light for the first part of our journey but now we are guided by the light at the end of the tunnel. This passage – narrow bridge, is surrounded by an Endless Light that stands outside of time and space. It is the Light that was present in the beginning of our personal and historical journey and it is still there in the end.