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The “Long Form” Birth Certificate

Friday, 7 January, 2022 - 1:58 pm

Among the chaos and excitement of birth there is always someone watching the clock to determine the “time of birth.” Aside from recording the date of birth, we keep track of the exact minute this new life entered the world, which is recorded on our “long form” birth certificate.

In this week’s parshah we learn how after generations of slavery the long awaited redemption finally happened after G-d afflicted Egypt with the final plague of killing their firstborn children. The Torah records the day and time the plague struck: midnight of the 15th of Nissan - famously celebrated today as the first day of Passover.

As predicted, this was the straw that broke the camel’s back and Pharaoh frantically demanded the Jews leave immediately. Moshe refused to budge until daybreak and by the time the group of millions of Jews left Egypt it was in the middle of the day. In fact the Torah once again records the exact hour: midday.

The prophet Ezekiel compares the exile in Egypt as a time of pregnancy and the exodus as the birth of the Jewish nation; when they were finally extricated from the environs of another nation. So Passover is our national birthday. As is customary with all births it seems logical for the Torah - as our national “long form” birth certificate - to record the exact moment of our birth as a nation in addition to the date. But here is the big question: were we born at midnight, when Pharaoh announced our freedom, or at midday, when we actually left the land of our affliction?

There are good reasons to trace our national birth minute to either midnight or midday but the fact that both times are recorded in Torah is in order to teach us something profound about Exodus and its relevance to us here and now.

The Hebrew word for Egypt is “Mitzrayim” which is etymologically linked to the Hebrew word for borders and limitations. The redemption we celebrate on Passover is not just the commemoration of our ancestors’ freedom from slavery in ancient Egypt. It was the watershed moment when every Jew was given the ability to overcome every limitation, constraint or challenge that he or she may ever encounter. We are never truly enslaved to our inner vices or inhibitions.

This fact must be clear to every single Jew regardless of their situation in life - whether they are at the point of “midnight” or “midday” in their personal lives. Midnight represents the ultimate darkness and midday represents the most brilliant light. If a Jew may currently be the lowest of the low - he or she should know that they can overcome everything to rise above it all to fix their lives. And if a Jew is at the pinnacle of spiritual achievement, he or she must know that there is always room for more growth.

Because breaking through boundaries is the foundation of our Jewish identity.


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