Judaism: Passover (Pesach)- Recalling the Blessings

Albert Einstein said, “There are two ways to live. You can live as if nothing is a miracle. You can live as if everything is a miracle.” The Jewish celebration of Passover (Pesach) celebrates miracles of life.

Have you ever had the experience of having several unexpected things come together at one time to give you a gift that you hadn’t dreamed possible? This has happened a few times in my life.

This is what happened to the clan of Israelites after some 400 years of slavery in Egypt. The possibility of freedom was beyond their imaginations; they were chained not just by their oppressors but by their own limited vision and lack of hope. Several things had to come together to bring about their deliverance.  

When good things come together in our lives it is important to inscribe it into our memories and lives. The memory of that unexpected blessing works as a kind of shield and buffer in the inevitable difficult times ahead. The reminder of past “deliverance” inspires hope for the present and future times.

The Israelites memorialized this miracle in the celebration of Passover culminating in the Seder supper, and it continues to inspire observant Jews today.

One of the thanksgiving prayers in the Seder supper recounts a series of unexpected interventions/miracles and kindnesses God performed on behalf of the clan of Israelites to bring about their deliverance. There are ten verses, each verse building on a further action of God to bring about their deliverance. A partial text follows. The Hebrew response is “Dayenu”, which means “It would have been enough”.

“If He had taken us out of Egypt and not made judgements on them; it would have been enough.
“If He had made judgments on them and had not split the Sea for us; it would have been enough.
“If He had split the Sea for us and had not taken us through it on dry land and had not supplied our needs in the wilderness for forty years; it would have been enough.
“If He had supplied our needs in the wilderness for forty years … and not brought us into the land of Israel; it would have been enough.”

We have a choice. We can look back over our lives with bitterness and regrets, retelling ourselves a narrative of bad luck. Or we can count our blessings, and trace the trajectory of life that has brought us to this place of freedom and hope.

“The holiday of Passover (Pesach in Hebrew) is perhaps one of the most central to Jewish life and history. More widely observed than any other holiday, Passover celebrates the biblical account of the Israelites’ redemption and escape from 400 years of Egyptian slavery. Holiday rituals include a dramatic retelling of the Exodus story and many unique food traditions. We come together with friends and family to celebrate the great lessons of the story: the blessing of freedom and the reminder that since we were once slaves and were freed, it is our responsibility to work for freedom for all people, everywhere.” It is observed for seven days.

“The word “Passover” is derived from the Hebrew word pasach, which means “passed over,” referring to the 10th plague that killed the Egyptian firstborn, but miraculously “passed over” the houses of the Israelites (more on that below). Found in the Torah, the Passover story tells of the Israelites’ slavery, deliverance, and escape (“the Exodus”) from Egypt.

Celebrated in various ways throughout history, Passover incorporates remnants of ancient spring harvest festivals. When the Temple existed, the holiday was one of three major festivals that required pilgrimages to Jerusalem to bring sacrifices. After the destruction of the Second Temple, Passover became a more communal, home-centered holiday, with the Haggadah and the sederas we know them mostly finalized around 500-600 C.E.”