“The World Turned Upside Down”
As part of the Hallel service that we recite on Jewish holidays, we recite Psalm 114, which states:
1 When Israel came out of Egypt,
Jacob from a people of foreign tongue,
2 Judah became God’s sanctuary,
Israel God’s dominion.
3 The sea looked and fled,
the Jordan turned back;
4 the mountains leaped like rams,
the hills like lambs.
5 Why was it, sea, that you fled?
Why, Jordan, did you turn back?
6 Why, mountains, did you leap like rams,
you hills, like lambs?
7 Tremble, earth, at the presence of the Lord,
at the presence of the God of Jacob,
8 who turned the rock into a pool,
the hard rock into springs of water.
The intimation from this Psalm is that the moment of Exodus turned with world upside down with earthquakes, tsunamis, and other tumultuous events following it. There is something about our leaving Egypt that changed the world.
One way that this is the case is that it turned slaves into victors. Until very recently, it was assumed that if someone was a slave it was because they “deserved it” and weren’t worthy of freedom. Their very humanity was questioned. Our ability to overcome the might of Egypt turned that idea on its head and showed the slaves are not only people but can be heroes of their own story.
An idea I like even more is that these events took place as part of the birthing of the Jewish people. Our crossing the sea was a literal emergence from the birth canal as we entered the world as a new and free people. The world changed when the Jewish people was born.
On this holiday, during which we celebrate our exodus from Egypt, we should also celebrate our birth as a nation and all that that has meant for the world. But maybe we should wait for the cake until after Passover…