What has God Done for Me Lately? (Shabbat, Passover Chol HaMoed)

This Shabbat is called Shabbat Chol HaMoed Pesach, as it is the Shabbat placed between the first and last days of Passover. On this specific Shabbat, we deviate from our forward progression through Leviticus as we go back into Exodus for tonight's portion.

The short Torah portion begins with Moses asking God for a favor: You say to me, 'lead this people forward,' but you have not made known to me whom you will send with me. Further, you have said, 'I have singled you out by name, and you have indeed, gained my favor.'

Moses seeks reassurance. As the 12th century commentator Rashbam explains, Moses says go God, I know you said you'd send an angel to protect us, but I would much prefer if it was you, yourself.

This behavior hearkens back to the Moses we meet at the beginning of Exodus, the Moses that doesn't want to lead the Israelite people, the Moses that thinks of excuse after excuse as to why he isn't the right person for the job.

And having just been freed from Egypt, Moses wants some added comfort that God will continue to bless and protect him and his people. Contrary to what we sang recently at our Passover seders, for Moses, it seems not to be enough that God brought the Israelites out. Moses wants added protections and assurances.

On the one hand, this may seem a bit chutzpadik. But as I was looking at this Torah portion, I think that it highlights an important struggle. It's the theological problem of what have you done for me lately?! Put a bit more seriously, do the blessings of the past supplant the possible problems and suferings of the present?

God may have freed us with an outstretched arm and a mighty hand, but is it really enough? Was it enough to the Jews who were killed during the Holocaust? And is it enough to the Jews who are denied religious liberty around the world?

God may have performed an incredible miracle in the past, but we live here, today, and we want to feel God's presence, now.

I think this is why Passover puts such a premium on the notion that each of us are commanded to feel as if we ourselves were freed from Egypt. This teaching changes Passover from being a historical remembrance to a spiritual experience. God did not only free our ancestors from Egypt - God freed us from Egypt as well!

Like Moses, we too want to feel God's presence. It's not enough just to remember what God has done in the past. The challenge of Passover, the challenge of Judaism is to remember that God freed you from Egypt.

Now that you are free - now that we are free - the decisions are up to us. We can choose to only look at what God has done for us in the past, or we can choose to hold the Torah dear to us, to do holy acts, to bring others to freedom, and if so, we will continue to feel God's presence today and tomorrow. Shabbat Shalom.

Have we Abandoned God? (Yom HaShoah)

Eat Your Matzah (Except When you Can't) (Shabbat before Passover)