If Duke plays against Butler on the last night of Passover, who must win? Clearly Butler, throwing off the bonds of servitude and marching off into freedom. That is a whit of whimsy, a scent of sentiment, falling far short of an actual prediction. Still, the setup is enchanting, the great festival of liberty featuring a battle between the duke and the butler, master against servant, rolling for all the marbles.
The "first days" of Passover were last Tuesday and Wednesday, but they mostly passed over my head this year, as I was laid up with laryngitis and a series of attendant infections. Now as I stagger back to my feet after a cascade of steroids, antibiotics and whatnot, pills and gargles and swallows, I am left to enjoy the "second days," Monday and Tuesday of this week.
Most of your less traditional types have trouble sustaining interest in the holiday all the way through the two initial major days and the four intermediate days, so these last two major days separate the men from the boys. Although the Bible does not identify a particular basis for this extra leg of the holiday, tradition says it commemorates the splitting of the Red Sea. If you calculate the days between the Jews leaving Egypt and Pharaoh deciding to chase them, it works out that the seventh day of Passover is the anniversary of the Jews making it through the sea and the Egyptians… not.
When I was a young man, a great mentor of mine explained that this is the source of a great principle about freedom. That freedom is subject to two schools of challenges, those which precede it and those which attack after it is achieved. The first days of Passover represent the victory over the forces which attempted to strangle freedom in its womb, the Egyptians who enslaved the Israelites and did everything in their power to thwart the Jewish nation from establishing itself as a sovereign entity.
The second days of Passover represent the victory over the forces of revanchism, those who seek to wrest freedom from the grip of the people who have succeeded in its attainment. Chasing after a free people, trying to bring them back, undermine their sense of independence, breaking their spirit forever, this is the particular brand of evil the Jews faced on the seventh day after departure from Egypt. Behind them came this attack, before them loomed the seemingly impassable.
Suddenly God showed them a way through the wall of water which had appeared impenetrable. (The tradition states that one great leader, Nahshon, head of the tribe of Judah, walked into the water fearlessly before it even began to part.) This is an eternal promise to those who seek freedom, to move forward without hesitation, without a tremor of heart. There may be a tremendous barrier in our way, an obstacle looking to be insuperable, but we should march forward proudly and it will part before us, my friends, I promise you it will part.
And if you can draw any analogies from this to the present political and cultural situation, who am I to interfere?
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