We prepare for the holiday of Passover in our kitchens and in our liturgy like little else in the Jewish year. Yet ironically, all of the preparation that we do comes to help us remember the last minute rush that was yetziyat mitzrayim (the Exodus from Egypt).
Our ancestors left Egypt in such tremendous haste that the Torah had to create a word for it. Nothing before had ever happened in such a hurry, with such trepidation and fear. The Children of Israel were leaving everything they knew for the promise of something completely unknown. And their lives depended on it. The Torah introduces the word “chipazon” for this intense combination of hurry and fear. This is how our ancestors first tasted freedom. “This is how you shall eat it,” they were told, “your belts fastened, your sandals on your feet, and your walking stick in your hand; and you shall eat it hurriedly,bechipazon.” (Ex 12:11)
Avadim Hayinu l’Pharoh b’mitzrayim. Veyotzieinu Adonai Eloheinu misham b’yad chazakah u’bizroa netuyah. We were slaves to Pharaoh in Egypt. And God brought us out from there with a strong hand and an outstretched arm.
Our Passover Hagaddah reminds us that in every generation each of us is obligated to see ourselves as if we had personally left Egypt. Jews know Egypt. Jews in every generation have too often experienced “Egypt,” or mitzrayim, narrow places where we are enslaved – physically or metaphorically – and silenced for being who we are. Gay and lesbian Jews are even better suited to fulfill that commandment, for everyone who has left the closet has known Egypt and has left Egypt in their lifetimes.
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