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Christian Living

Spiritual Life

The Telling

 

By Mark Gerson
Every year, we Jews literally live in the Bible. Thiis happens on the holiday of Pesach, or Passover, which the Bible tells us must occur “in the spring.” Spring is the great season of renewal. It is the time when we can feel the world blooming with new life.

But how can a lunar calendar, reflecting a 356-day year, ensure that a holiday always falls in a particular season? We Jews added a leap month. Consequently, Jewish time—as represented by the calendar itself—revolves around Pesach.

Just as Jewish time revolves around Pesach, Jewish life flows from this holiday, as well. In Exodus 12:1, God tells Moses and Aaron, “From now on, this month will be the first month of the year for you” (NLT). This is the month of Pesach. Pesach is, thus, the original and authentic Jewish New Year.

What do we Jews do on this New Year celebration? We follow, precisely, the instructions from Moses: “This is a day to remember. Each year, from generation to generation, you must celebrate it as a special festival to the Lord. This is a law for all time” (Exodus 12:14, NLT).

This is quite a vision, as forever is clearly a long period of time! How does one remember something “for all time”? Moses, the visionary, is also ready to deliver. In Exodus 13:14, Moses says (referring to the Exodus) that in the future their children will ask “What does all this mean?” (NLT).

To Purchase The Telling: How Judaism's Essential Book Reveals the Meaning of Life

This reflects an amazing insight. Moses does not say, “If your children ask you” or “Should your children ask you,” but “Your children will ask you.” In other words, it’s not if but when. Why is Moses so confident that children— from his day to ours and beyond—will ask? Because of the characteristic all children share: curiosity.

What, Moses asks, should we do with a curious child? He answers that question in Exodus as well. As he and the Jews prepare to leave Egypt—fully aware that the Pharaoh is likely to chase them—Moses stops to give a speech about how to answer the children when they ask. He pauses in a life-and- death race against time to give a speech— about education.

The Jewish future, he states, will be built upon the education of our children. And like monumental commitments generally, this devotion to perpetuation through education would be commemorated, celebrated and rededicated every year on the Festival decreed in Exodus 12: the Festival of Pesach.

The main event of Pesach is the Seder. It is held exactly two weeks into the first month with the same foods, guests and structure provided in the Bible. It is surely the longest-running religious ritual in the world.

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How do we educate our children at the Seder? We sit around a table, with generations of family, Jewish and Gentile friends, and strangers with the Haggadah. Haggadah, the central text of the Seder, means “telling.” The Haggadah tells the story of our Exodus from Egypt in a way that also tells us about the story.

The Haggadah draws from Genesis and Ezekiel, Joel and Deuteronomy, Joshua and Exodus, the Psalms and Chronicles, along with stories of later Rabbis and thousand-year-old songs. In doing so, the Haggadah teaches us the Exodus was not one event—but part of the freedom story that preceded it and that we are still living.

Consequently, it becomes clear as to what the Haggadah is: the Greatest Hits of Jewish thought.

And, consistent with all great Jewish texts, it has a singular purpose—to guide us to live happier, more meaningful and better lives in the year to come. As we educate our children using the Haggadah, we also educate ourselves by asking and answering many of the most important questions of life, all suggested and guided by the corpus of Jewish wisdom. These include questions of miracles, mission, music, good and evil, actions and character, Jews and Gentiles, beginnings and (non)endings, order and freedom, how to feel and express gratitude, joy and happiness, self-transformation, false humility, blessings, parenthood, education, family, forgiveness, second chances, ideology, watching, newness, Zionism, our relationship with God, and much more.

I wrote a book titled The Telling: How Judaism’s Essential Book Reveals the Meaning of Life to explore what the Haggadah (and the Jewish thought it draws from) says about these topics. I would be honored by your reading the book. Visit offer.therabbishusband.com to learn more.

Mark Gerson, a devoted Jew, is an entrepreneur and philanthropist who (along with his wife, Rabbi Erica Gerson) is perhaps the world’s largest individual supporter of Christian medical missions. He is the co-founder of African Mission Healthcare (AMH).

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