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Haggadah: Surprise!

“Because there was nothing in the cosmic order, no unsolved puzzle, no tailor-made niche, that necessitated the muon’s existence, the Nobel Prize-winning particle physicist Isidor Isaac Rabi greeted the discovery of the muon with a less than enthusiastic “Who ordered that?” Nevertheless, there it was. Brian R. Greene – The Elegant Universe


I don’t know about you, but had I been an Egyptian chasing after the Children of Israel, having trapped them between my army and the sea only to watch the sea split just in time. I would not have chased them inside the water. I would have been too surprised.

I’m not sure that even as one of the Children of Israel that I would not have been too surprised to enter the split sea.

One major surprise was not enough. There are hundreds of Midrashim that describe one surprise after another for the Children of Israel as they crossed the sea. Thirsty? Surprise! A water fountain supplying Dr Brown’s black cherry soda appeared. Hungry? Surprise! Hershey bars, Chalav Yisrael, of course, appeared. Worried about your new shoes? Surprise! The sea floor was not only completely dry, it was a magnificent mosaic.

The mosaic was probably less necessary than the Muon, which failed to surprise Dr Rabi, but there it was. The Sages describe the splitting of the sea as one surprise after another.

We were at the beginning of our relationship with God, and He wanted to teach us that this relationship will never grow old. It will always be filled with exciting surprises…

That is, if we hold on to our ability to be surprised, unlike Dr Rabi’s underwhelming reaction to the muon’s existence.

What happened to those surprised people? The surprise did not stop the Egyptians in their tracks. They were too focused on killing their former slaves to react even for a second. The surprises did not stop the former slaves from forgetting all the miracles the minute they saw all the Egyptian gold and silver washing ashore. They were so focused on their new found wealth that they lost their ability to rejoice in all the surprises.

Each time I read the text of the Torah I receive a surprise; a new insight, a question I had never noticed, a word that opens secret treasures. I will celebrate the gift of “Surprise!” these final days of Pesach, and pray that God will continue to surprise me every day.

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