Haggadah: Highs & Lows
It’s very difficult to keep a diary while moving so much and so quickly. So much has happened since I last wrote in you that I haven’t been able to update you. Sorry!
I can tell you about the locusts, darkness, the Pesach Offering, rushing out the next morning, and, hopefully I will. But my soul has been shaken by my reactions and I must first share my most recent experiences.
When I was a small boy, I would accompany my father to his work on the pyramids. One day as we were walking to the worksite we saw posters for a carnival that was coming to town. There were drawings of people looking at their twisted images in all sorts of mirrors. Some mirrors made you look short and fat, and others stretched you out so that you looked like a giant. I was most intrigued by the drawing of a mirror that made your body twist and turn and move in waves. I was so taken that I did something I usually would not; I expressed my desire to go to the carnival to see that mirror.
I was upset with myself the minute the words came out of my mouth. My father’s eyes would usually tear up when I asked to do something that he, as a slave, could not do for me.
This time, Dad looked at me in surprise and said, “It’s good for the Egyptians to see themselves as twisted and crooked as they are. I want you to always see yourself as you are, not how others see you.”
I remembered Dad’s words as I went to sleep after an extraordinary day; extraordinary even for us who have experienced the most unbelievable miracles over the past year. A year ago, all I had to look forward to was another day of back bending labor. Tonight, I look forward to tomorrow with expectation, excitement, and, I’ll admit, some fear of the unknown.
We woke up to a terrible situation this morning. We were camped in front of the Sea, without ships to help us cross. We couldn’t turn back because the Egyptians had gathered whatever was left of their armies and were camped out just behind us, waiting to attack.
We were furious. Moshe seemed to be taking us in circles and now, after everything that happened and tasting freedom, we were stuck between the Egyptians and the waters. We all rushed to the head of the camp and began yelling at Moshe, “Was it for this that you took us out of Egypt?”
Moshe was taken by our words and began praying himself. All of a sudden he raised his staff in the air and cried out, “Move!”
We were stunned; how? Where? We were frozen.
The prince of Judah, Nachson, simply started walking into the water! And then, the water split. Paths opened up before us with large flashing signs with the names of the tribes at the entrance to each path.
We were so overwhelmed that we forgot about the Egyptians, and very calmly began moving down the paths in an orderly manner. We were walking on dry land in middle of the sea! The ground was perfectly dry. The water rose on both sides of each path like giant walls.
We looked at the seabed and saw all the minerals dry and beautiful. It appeared as if they had been laid out in a mosaic. We felt as if we were walking in a palace. We, who were slaves just a few months ago, who could never even dream of walking into Pharaoh’s palace, felt as if we were walking in God’s palace. This was cool!
When the last person exited the path, we turned around and saw that the Egyptians had followed us into the sea. We were terrified, but just for a moment. The minute we finished crossing, the waters crashed down over the Egyptians. We saw men, horses and chariots tossed in the air and smashed by the waves. They were screaming, and we realized that we would never have to fear the Egyptians again.
We were speechless. We were inspired. We felt as if God had lifted and carried us to the most magnificent places in the heavens. We were unaware of being in the desert. We were trembling with joy and inspiration.
Moshe began to sing, and I have to tell you, all the men began to sing with him. We sang of God’s greatness, His miracles and strength, His love for us, and we sang of our dreams for the future. We felt like angels singing to God.
Yes, I did say “the men.” The women stood on the side and watched as we sang. When we finished our song, with tears in our eyes, our souls soaring, excited and wondering what could ever top this feeling, Miriam, Aaron’s sister, ran to the side of the camp, away from the men, with a drum in her hand. The women began to follow her. My wife wasn’t the only one who had gone to the music store, because all the women had drums or cymbals. They knew that something like this would happen. They danced with ecstasy, emanating an unbelievable light and sang a short song, but whose words continue to ring in my ears, now, hours later.
The women finished their dance. All was silent. We were absorbing the great spiritual heights we had experienced, when someone yelled out, “Gold!”
We woke from our reveries and saw that piles of gold, silver and jewels were floating up from the sea. In a single second we forgot all the spiritual joy and rushed to collect as much money as possible.
As I was hungrily gathering as much as I could, I saw one of my old foreman’s body broken and shattered on the edge of the water. I turned my wealth collection into a dance of joy. He got what he deserved.
A few minutes earlier I was an angel soaring with inspiration and spiritual ecstasy. Now I was a money hungry human being dancing in a mix of hatred and joy over the broken body of an Egyptian. Moshe was commanding us to start moving and no one wanted to listen. We wanted more gold, more silver, more jewels, more money. We didn’t want to leave a penny behind.
What happened to me?
How did I change so quickly?
Is it really that simple to lose a high spiritual state?
And then I remembered the drawing of the carnival mirror and the twisted image of a body. I guess I got to see myself in that mirror after all, unfortunately, I was seeing myself as I really was, exactly as my father told me. I didn’t need to go to a carnival. I only had to look at myself.