Passover Resources for Educators

The Burden and Responsibility of Freedom

“In every generation, each person is obligated to view himself as if he had come out of Egypt.” The artist created elliptical portraits of Jewish people from various eras—as well as a few mirrors—in order to include the viewer among them. My Haggadah: The Book of Freedom by David Moss, 2015. 

“In every generation, each person is obligated to view himself as if he had come out of Egypt.” The artist created elliptical portraits of Jewish people from various eras—as well as a few mirrors—in order to include the viewer among them.
My Haggadah: The Book of Freedom by David Moss, 2015. 

“Freedom is a heavy load, a great and strange burden for the spirit to undertake. It is not easy. It is not a gift given, but a choice made, and the choice may be a hard one. The road goes upward towards the light; but the laden traveler may never reach the end of it.”

― Ursula K. Le GuinThe Tombs of Atuan

A few weeks ago in Parashat Beshalach, we read about the exodus from Egypt. In this dramatic Torah portion the Israelites exit Egypt on their way to freedom. This is not a purely joyous moment for them. They leave with heavy hearts, concerned about their future and with a feeling of hopelessness. They question the very decision to leave and some would rather go back and be slaves than face the unknown.  At the moment of truth the sea parts and they walk to safety. The long journey to freedom has begun.

We have been blessed through this foundational myth with the idea of freedom as an ultimate value. But at the same time there are both internal and external forces that work against it. The Torah portion tells us about the wish of the people to give up this newly found freedom. Their fear, uncertainty and longing for what they left behind, prepare them for the long way ahead. The journey to freedom is as important as freedom itself.

Most of us were born to freedom. We did not have to realize we were shackled, we did not have to take a long journey, we did not arrive at the metaphoric bank of the Jordan River in order to cross it to the Promised Land.  Still, some of us have had “a certain Egypt” and overcame what we perceive as oppression or tyranny. And of course most of us are enslaved to something: career, bad habits, way of thinking, tablets and iPhones, fill in the blank... Either way we must never take the freedom and independence that we have for granted. We have a responsibility to protect it, to fight for it and to tell the story of the long journey toward it to our children and students this year. Especially this year!

 “May we all be blessed this Pesach with the ability to feel yetziat mitzrayim, on the national level and on the personal level, so that we are redeemed from whatever confines us.”

- Jennie Rosenfeld, Towards Personal Redemption

 

We include a few resources that explore the Exodus from different national, communal and personal perspectives. Enjoy!

 

EXODUS - A MIDRASH SONG
by Etti Ankri (lyrics and music)

Etti Ankri is an Israeli singer-songwriter. She has performed in the United States and other countries. Ankri has been called a "rock genius" the "poet of Israeli spirituality," and "the contemporary voice of... Israel." Her midrash song about the Exodus from Egypt is full of the rhythms of her Mizrachic roots.

Etti Ankri “Exodus” with English subtitles

Etti Ankri “Exodus” with English subtitles

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hebrew Lyrics
 

Lyrics in English
Translation by Robbie Gringras
From video: Makom-Israel Engagement Network

This is Jacob’s pain
Over little Joseph
Sown within us
Is senseless brotherly hatred

And sometimes it seems to me
When I am ready to give up
Pharaoh is my disorder
And I am sad for Egypt

And sometimes it seems to me
That we are still there
Walking towards the mountain
Begging for water

May it open up in two
The salt water
And we shall pass in between –
All those that are walking

To leave in the exodus from Egypt
To arrive in the desert
Perhaps we’ll find some water there
On the way to the mountain

May it open in two
The salt water
And we shall pass in between
All those who are weeping

And they are gaining on us
An army of cavalry
It is difficult for Moshe
The people have no faith in their hearts

The beach’s touch is calming
The sea gapes open its mouth
What if we return to Egypt?
Fear has no memory

We were builders of pyramids
Interpreters of dreams
We had nothing we could call our own
Only salt and tears

 

EVERY PERSON NEEDS TO HAVE A CERTAIN EGYPT
Poem by Israeli poet Amnon Ribak

The Exodus as a metaphor for dealing with hardship and resulting in personal growth.

The poem suggests that from a crisis, from the abyss and from despair, a person can find his/her inner Moses, and take themselves out of their “certain Egypt” on a journey of personal redemption.

to redeem themselves from it, from the
house of slavery,
to go out in the middle of the night to the
desert of fears,
to march straight into the waters,
to see them open before them to both sides.

Every person needs a shoulder,
on which to carry the bones of Joseph,
Every person needs to straighten their
backs.

Every person needs to have a
certain Egypt,
and a Jerusalem,
and one long journey,
that they will forever remember
in their feet.

Every person needs to have a
certain Egypt,
To deliver themselves from it
with a strong arm,
or with grinding teeth.

Every person needs terror and great
darkness,
and comfort and promise and redemption,
that they would know to look up at the sky.
Every person needs one
prayer,

that would always be on their lips.
A person needs to bend one time –
Every person needs a shoulder.

Every person needs to have a
certain Egypt,

The Poem in Hebrew

 

TEXT STUDIES & LESSON PLANS

1. Towards Personal Redemption – Text Study
Lesson on using “Exodus” - Etti Ankri’s song
By Dr. Jennie Rosenfeld
JOFA (Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance)

2. Beshalach – The Test of Freedom – Text Study
By Rabbi Alex Israel
For Pardes (Institute of Jewish Stidues)
Pardes’ web site includes many resources for educators

3. Chofshi – Free.
A lesson plan from MAKOM about the concept of “free” as it appears in “Hatikvah”,
Israel’s national anthem. Etti Ankri’s song featured in this lesson plan as well.

4. Exodus, Freedom and Responsibility – Facilitator’s Guide
American Jewish World Service