This week’s Torah portion is “Bo” (Exodus 10:1 – 13:16) and at its climax we have the tenth and final plague that God cast upon Egypt: the death of the firstborn. The Jewish people were now all but free. The first annual Passover Seder takes place. The Exodus will forever be the primary national historical theme of the Jewish people.
Indeed, the Exodus from Egypt is not only a historical event, but a daily one, as well. The Exodus is not merely commemorated on Passover – it is commemorated every single day, multiple times, in the course of the daily prayers. It is even a part of the twice daily recitation of the hallowed “Shema Yisrael” prayer. Those who were present at the time of the Exodus witnessed Divine miracles that we can only imagine (with the help of movies like “The Ten Commandments” and “The Prince of Egypt”, of course!). At that moment, every Jew was on the level of a prophet, capable of witnessing supernatural miracles. God’s existence was beyond the shadow of a doubt.
Unfortunately, us folks living in the 21st century are unable to witness Divine miracles of such proportions. For us, it is a tradition, if not an outright leap of faith, to believe and internalize all that our forefathers witnessed and most importantly: to impart them to our children and future generations. This is, without exaggeration, mission #1 in life. As the Torah says: “and when your children will ask you in the future “what is this?” you shall tell them that “G-d brought us out from Egypt with a strong hand from the house of slavery.”
Our sages explain that teaching our children about the Exodus, and all that God has done for us, can be compared to planting a seed. Seeds come from fruit –fully grown fruit- that started their growth and development as a seed that was planted in the ground. Seeds breed fruit, which in turn breed seeds. The fruits are just as luscious and juicy every time.
By taking us out of Egypt with miracles and wonders, God planted seeds within us. Even though generations come and go, the seeds from that very first exodus must be planted, cultivated, and imparted to our children. As the song from Fiddler on the Roof goes “Sunrise, sunset. Sunrise, sunset. Swiftly flow the days. Seedlings turn overnight to sunflowers, blossoming even as we gaze.” Even when the plant or fruit dies, its offspring lives on with the same DNA and potential as the parent ‘seed.’
With this you have the secret to Jewish continuity and survival: planting seeds. Nurturing our children with the values and traditions of their forefathers. Clinging tight to all that we believe in, and passing it down to our children, and our children’s children, in perpetuity. You can be sure that when you take the time to read your children a Jewish book or story, to expose them to their rich heritage, ensuring that they see the beauty of Judaism and being Jewish – you are planting seeds.
It is according to the time, effort, and energy that you put into your seeds –your children— that will determine the quality of their Judaism and the tradition that they pass onto their children. If you don’t believe me – just ask your gardener.
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Rabbi Ari Enkin