The Egg in Exodus

The Egg in Exodus At Passover Seders around the world, one of the items on the Seder plate will be a simple hard-boiled egg. I would like to spend a moment on what we learn from this egg, how it truly encapsulates what Passover is all about, and one of the messages it has for us today.

One of the reasons we have the egg at the Seder is because it symbolizes the beginning of life, and Passover marks the very beginning of our national existence. But it’s more exact than that. The egg reflects the precise position of the Jewish people at the time of the Exodus from Egypt.

Let’s look at the journey of our egg. The egg is first inside the hen. It is then laid and thereby freed from the constraints previously imposed upon it. But has the egg been hatched? Has a little chick emerged from the shell yet? The answer is no. The egg, you see, is only potential life. It is not yet a living being. One day, please G‑d, a chick will emerge and the cycle of life will continue.

When the Jewish People left Egypt they were just like that—an unhatched egg. Free from the prison of Egypt and the constraints of slavery—but they weren’t quite fully born. It would take seven weeks for them to stand at the foot of Mount Sinai and experience the great revelation of G‑d and receive the Torah. Only when they were given a way of life did the Jewish people receive purpose. Until Sinai, we were all dressed up with nowhere to go. On Passover we emerged from the confines of Egypt like the egg that drops out of the hen. But only at Sinai were we hatched and born properly.

The message for us? Political freedom without spiritual freedom is an unhatched egg, incomplete. We may have been free and unfettered, but we were still spiritually lost and morally confused.

Where I live, in South Africa, we understand this message very well. We have, thank G‑d, achieved political freedom in our beloved country. We’ve had 17 years of democracy with free and fair national elections. Everyone had a chance to cast their vote. But the fact is that most of our population is still as impoverished as they were before. Yes, many more now have access to water, electricity and housing, but for the majority of the majority, their lives have been unaffected.

Worse still, new freedoms bring new cultures, new lifestyles, and sadly, new decadence. Gone are old tribal values, and in their place is the empty, materialistic Western worship of all that is new and glitzy.

We may be free from the oppression of the past, but we haven’t yet been provided with a coherent, wholesome infrastructure to help direct our aspirations.

So, freedom itself is only half the story. What we do with our freedom — that is the question. We need a purpose in life, and we need a moral, spiritual infrastructure to help guide us in life. Otherwise we wander aimlessly through the wilderness, and our freedom remains undeveloped potential. Let’s not be unhatched eggs.

Let us use our freedom wisely and achieve all our aspirations. Let us realize that Passover is but the beginning. Now we must consult the Torah to discover how to take maximum advantage of that freedom.

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