Seize the Moment
11 Nissan, 5723 (1963)
Passover is the first day of Jewish independence, and the first festival in the history of our Jewish people.
It is first in rank and significance, for it brought the liberation of our people from enslavement and made it possible for them to live a free and independent life as a nation, governed only by the Torah and its commandments dictated by G-d alone.
As such, Passover is especially meaningful for our Jewish people, and for every Jew individually, at all times and in all places.
For this reason also, every aspect of the festival and every detail attending the historical Exodus from Egypt, has a special significance in the way of a timeless message and practical instruction for the individual, the community and our people as a whole.
One of the important details of the Exodus is the haste with which the Exodus took place.
When the hour of liberation struck, the Jewish people left Egypt at once, losing not a moment, or, as our Sages express it -- not even a "heref ayin," "the batting of an eye-lid."
They add, moreover, that if the Jewish people had tarried and missed that auspicious moment, the opportunity of the liberation would have been lost forever.
This seems incomprehensible.
For it was already after the Ten Plagues, which prompted the Egyptians to virtually expel the Jews from their land.
The situation was thus "well in hand."
Why, then, the teaching of our Sages that if that moment had been missed, the whole liberation would have been in jeopardy?
Above all, what practical lesson is contained in this detail, so that the Torah makes a point of revealing it to us with particular emphasis?
The explanation is as follows:
When the end of the road of exile is reached, and the moment arrives for the liberation from the "abomination of Egypt," the opportunity must be seized at once; there must be no tarrying even for an instant, not even to the extent of "batting an eye- lid."
The danger of forfeiting the opportunity lay not in the possibility of the Egyptians changing their mind, but in the possibility that some Jews might change their mind, being loathe to leave their habituated way of life in Egypt, to go out into the desert to receive the Torah.
The practical lesson for every Jew, man or woman, young or old, is:
The Exodus from Egypt as it is to be experienced in day-to-day life, is the personal release from subservience to the dictates of the body and the animal in man; the release from passions and habits within, as well as from the materialistic environment without.
This release can only be achieved by responding to the call of G-d, Who seeks out the oppressed and enslaved and promises, "I shall redeem you from bondage... that I may be your G-d."
As at the time of the first liberation, true freedom is conditional upon the acceptance of the Torah and mitzvot.
This call of freedom never ceases.
The Exodus must be achieved every day; each day the opportunity beckons anew.
Unfortunately, there are individuals who tarry and consign the opportunity to the "three solemn days" of the year, Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur; others, at best, postpone it for Shabbat and Yom Tov, still others, who recall and experience the Exodus in daily prayer, fail to extend it to every aspect of daily life.
What is true of the individual, is true also on the community and national levels, except that on these levels the missing of the opportunities is, of course, even more far-reaching and catastrophic.
As in the days of our ancestors in Egypt whose exodus was not delayed even for a moment, whereby they attained full liberation of the body and full liberation of the spirit with the acceptance of the Torah at Sinai, which was the purpose and goal of the Exodus.
May G-d grant that every Jew seize the extraordinary opportunity of the present moment, to achieve self-liberation and to help others in the same direction; liberation from all manner of bondage, internal and external, and above all, liberation from the most dismal bondage -- the idea of "let's be like the rest."
And when we return to the ways of Torah and mitzvot in the fullest measure, we will merit the fulfillment of the promise: When the Jewish people return, they are redeemed at once, with the true and complete redemption through our righteous Moshiach.