The egg in Exodus

  • Rabbi Goldman
At Pesach seders around the world, one item on our seder plates will be a simple hard boiled egg. For me, this little egg tells a fascinating story and truly encapsulates what Pesach is all about and what message it has for us today.
by RABBI YOSSY GOLDMAN | Apr 06, 2017

One of the reasons we have the egg at the seder is because it symbolises the beginning of life and Pesach marks the very beginning of our national existence. But it’s much more specific and precise than that. The egg reflects the exact position of the Jewish people at the time of the Exodus from Egypt.

Let’s look at the journey of our egg: The egg is first inside the hen. It is then laid and thereby freed from the constraints previously imposed upon it. But has the egg been hatched? Has a little chick emerged from the shell yet? The answer is no. 

The egg, you see, is only “potential” life. It is not yet a living being. One day, please G-d, a chick will emerge and the cycle of life will continue.

When the Jewish people left Egypt, they were just like that - an unhatched egg. Free from the prison of Egypt and the constraints of slavery - but they weren’t quite fully born.

It would take another seven weeks for them to stand at the foot of Mount Sinai and experience the great revelation of G-d. That’s when Moses would bring down the Tablets with the Ten Commandments, and teach them the Torah. Only when we were given a way of life did the Jewish people receive a purpose in life. Until Sinai, we were all dressed up with nowhere to go.

So, at Pesach we emerged from the confines of Egypt like the egg that drops out of the hen.  But only at Sinai where we actually hatched, were we born properly.

The message for us? Political freedom without spiritual freedom is an unhatched egg and incomplete. We may have been free and unfettered, but we were still spiritually lost and morally confused.

Who better than we in South Africa to understand this message? We have, thank G-d, achieved political freedom in our beloved country. Since 1994, we’ve had democracy with free and fair national elections. Everyone had a chance to cast their vote. 

But the fact is that most of our population is still as impoverished as they were before. Yes, many more now have access to water, electricity and housing, but for the majority of the majority, their lives have been unchanged.

Worse still, new freedoms bring new cultures, new lifestyles, and sadly, new decadence.  Gone are old traditional tribal values and in its place, is the empty, materialistic Western worship of all that is new and glitzy. Sadly, too, there is a new sense of entitlement which allows criminals to justify taking what belongs to others.

Today, we are in the throes of a power struggle within the government and one can only wonder how it will turn out. Will we regain our exalted status as a model for emerging countries, or will we, G-d forbid, become just another banana republic?

We may be free from the oppression of the past but we haven’t yet been provided with a coherent, wholesome infrastructure to help direct our aspirations.

So, freedom itself is only half the story. What we do with our freedom - that is the question. We need a purpose in life and we need a moral, spiritual infrastructure to help guide us in life. Otherwise, we wander aimlessly through the wilderness and our freedom remains undeveloped potential.

Pesach calls out to all of us not to remain unhatched eggs. Let us use our freedom wisely so we can achieve all our aspirations. Let us realise that Pesach and its political freedom is but the beginning. 

Now we must consult the Torah to discover how to take maximum advantage of that freedom. Only a higher, more noble way of life, can make our physical freedom a lasting success. 

Rabbi Yossy Goldman is the senior rabbi at Sydenham Shul and president of the SA Rabbinical Association.



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