Re-reading Exodus for 2023 continues with a look at Who Are We? in the Exodus and Passover story.
Isn’t It Time, Episode 3
For this episode of “Isn’t It Time,” the only additional commentary referenced is the Mixed Multitudes Haggadah Supplement created by Jews for Racial and Economic Justice. (JFREJ Haggadah Library)
Each time we return to Exodus and the Passover story is another chance to grasp the many ways in which we have yet to experience Liberation ourselves and are participating in the oppression of others. One way to seek out new perspectives is to consider ourselves as ALL of the characters in the Passover story. “After the Maggid: When We Imagine Ourselves Allies,” written from perspectives of an interracial family, explores some of the many allies and oppressors of Exodus. It is worth considering independently of the seder, to help inform our approach to Passover and to extend our understanding of Exodus story more widely.
One of those reflections is offered in “Isn’t It Time,” and here is another:
Sometimes we are Bat Pharaoh…
…Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing “compassion” without hesitation, pulling the baby out of the river and giving him a home. But when we pull him from the river, he is taken from his people and forced to pretend to be someone else in order to survive. And we know that he is family and we love him as our son, but we ask impossible things of him. We ask him to pass for [Mitzrayim-ite], we cut him off from his heritage in the hopes of keeping him safe. We do not recognize the futility, that safety is always an illusion. We do not use our proximity to power to try to change the situation for other babies like him. We can sleep at night because we tell ourselves we are good people living in a cruel system, but we do not admit that we could change things if only we would convince our synagogue to support the protests, or to at least stop hiring police officers to protect High Holiday services without questioning whether they make all of our community feel safe.
— Mixed Multitudes Haggadah Supplement (also #BLM Haggadah), JFREJ
A few more questions:
Rather than assuming we’re one character or group in the Exodus story, we can ask:
How are we like the midwives at the start of the story (Ex 1:15-21): attempting to stand up to power and for life? or worn down by a grinding, harmful system?
How are we like Moses (Ex 2ff), struggling with identity — raised in one household and culture but connected in many ways to another?
How are we like Pharaoh (Ex 1ff): impatient with the past and fearful of the future, ready to knock down anyone or anything that threatens those we believe we must protect?
Considering ourselves as Yisrael-ite or Mitzrayim-ite, what assumptions and experiences form our views?
Can we learn to hold more than one point of view at the same time or in conversation with one another?
The question of Who Are We? in the Exodus story must be paired with the question “Who Are We NOT?” Stay tuned for the next episode of “Isn’t It Time” — subscribe here or through Spotify, Apple Podcasts and other podcasting apps.
I am still trying to figure out how best to create channels for conversation around these topics. Meanwhile download the booklet at Rereading4Liberation.com and send suggestions for shared learning.
It’s Adar! Time to increase our joy by joining in reflection and action that builds for a better future.
This is Virginia Avniel Spatz saying: “Isn’t It Time to Reread Exodus?”