A Modern Day Lesson From the Haggadah

Sermon - 1st day of Passover - 2015

By reading the Haggadah it is clear that the protagonist of the Exodus story is God. God caused our ancestors to be in Egypt, God hardened Pharaoh's heart, God brought the 10 plagues and God led the Israelites out of Egypt. Though we think Moses had a part to play, the rabbis by authoring the Haggadah, want us to always focus our attention on God. 

What are we to learn from this? How can we apply this theological lesson to our lives today? Some would suggest that we have to sit back and wait for God to act on our behalf. We can't, and in fact it would be heretical if we tried to, initiate any communal effort on our own - God has to act for us. A century ago many Jews were opposed to the Zionists for this reason. A state of Israel would only be established by God.

Another possible lesson is that we need to act in the name of God. If God could show us how to act centuries ago in leading us out of Egypt, we can also act in God's name today. The Torah teaches us what God wants us to do and we can continue acting in God's name. However, we have seen the tragic consequence of this attitude over the centuries with so many people being killed in God's name. And it's still being done today.

The lesson I prefer to learn from the Haggadah is that God represents morality and ethics. A belief in God demands that the believer act in a moral and ethical way. We can't sit back and wait for God nor can we claim to act in God's name. We must understand the values that our Jewish heritage has taught us and act as individuals and as a community according to those values.

The same is true by extension when our country - the USA - acts in the world. If we claim to be the home of democracy and human rights then we must exhibit those values in how we act in the world. When we face tyrannical regimes we must not compromise our values for if we do we let tyranny triumph. We must stand firm and never concede in the war against evil. As a sponsor of terrorism throughout the middle east and its continued insistence that Israel be wiped off the face of the earth, Iran has clearly demonstrated its diabolical intentions. Any pact that would allow Iran to continue its ruthlessness would be a travesty. Such a pact would show that tyranny can triumph over Good and that we don't have the courage to stand behind our convictions.

If we learn nothing else from the Haggadah may we stand firm behind our American and Jewish values. May we advocate for our values and may we convince President Obama to be uncompromising  as well. Our freedom depends on it.