A Passover writing exercise, offered by my friend, the Rabbi (who is also a writer, and a damned good one): write a short something-or-other, based upon a given prompt, every day for the 15 days of Nisan that lead to the first seder of Passover. I tried, I really did, I tried to write something every day. A noble attempt, but it didn’t happen. Even so, I managed to kick something out for one prompt: Tell.
Of course, the first thing I thought about, given that Passover prompt, was Chanukah. I just couldn’t get that Chanukah song to stop running through my head. You know the one - "Who can retell the things that befell us...?" (And now it's running through yours as well; no good deed and all). It works, just the same. At least the opening verse. Just substitute Moses and Aaron and Miriam and that cast of hundreds of thousands for all those Maccabees, and you can pretty much retell the story of oppression and slavery and freedom and bloodshed and war and miracles and redemption, there and back again.
That's the part that I get stuck on, the "...and back again." We tell and we tell and we tell. It’s an awesome story, filled with heroes and pyrotechnics that could keep the special effects masters at Industrial Light and Magic on their toes and at their drawing boards for years. Decades. Forever. The stuff of life is present in every word of this story we tell, all the drama and majesty and love and passion and danger and discovery and betrayal and loss.
Tell this story. Tell it to those who ask and those who don't even know there's a story to tell. Tell it as if you were there, part of the original action. Tell it as if you are still there, that we are all still there, living and experiencing it all right now.
Tell it, and tell it again. It is that important.
But here's what I'm thinking these days (as if my statement above were not hint enough): there are far too many "again's" in our story. That is, how many times do we find ourselves in need of heroes and miracles? How many times must we tell the story of soldiers and blood and war and terror?
Yes, and redemption. And yes, God. I love that these are the base of all of the stories we tell.
When, though, do we learn? When do we change? Of course we must tell the story of the Exodus! Of course we must celebrate our journey from the very narrow places into the wide open space of the wilderness where we meet God! Of course we must tell the story of our journey from slavery to freedom.
It just seems that we tell this same story, with only slight variations, of oppression, of idols and enslavement and fear and war in every generation since then. That's a lot of generations, a lot of oppression and fear and bloodshed.
Here's a secret. I love Passover. It’s my favorite holiday. How could it not be? I love that we are commanded to tell this story. As a writer, how could I not? But sometimes, in the quiet, away from the fury of the cleaning and preparing and the cooking, sometimes I wish we could tell the story with a different ending.
I'm a dork. I get that. Sometimes, I wish we could tell the story of a world that, because of our wondrous redemption, there in the wilderness, we needed no heroes, no magic, no soldiers, no war to save us yet again. That the story we tell, year after year after day after month, ever and always is the story of everyday miracles, of peace and wholeness and grace...
Once we were slaves, now we are free.