Baila Brackman, co-director of the Rohr Chabad Center for Jewish Life and Learning at the University of Chicago, wrote this article for Chabad.org
Sometimes I wonder what it was like for our ancestors when they faced the sea in front of them and the Egyptians behind them.
What would I have done, how would I have felt?
There are so many times in life when one is faced with seemingly insurmountable challenges. Sometimes we feel trapped, indecisive and torn. As waves of raging water rush in front of us, chaos and confusion chase mercilessly at our heels.
What to do? Which way to go?
With a leap of faith, the Israelites moved forward. After they triumphantly crossed the sea and were heading to receive the Torah, G‑d asked Moses who would be the guarantors for this precious gift. Suggestions were made and rejected, until they cried out that the children would be the guarantors. G‑d was happy; He would give the Jews the treasured Torah.
How fortunate are we to have such powerful guarantors for our holy Torah.
When our son Shmulie was diagnosed with leukemia about five months ago, things turned upside down. Doctors, nurses, appointments, chemotherapies, and medications that I never thought I could pronounce entered my life.
I had questions, lots of questions; fears, lots of fears; and doubts, too many.
The first Friday night that we were in the hospital, tears filled my eyes. I stepped out of the room so I wouldn’t upset my son. When I came back into the room, he looked at me and said, “Mommy, please no tears, everything will be all right.” He has such a sense of trust in G‑d, a connection so great that his happiness and hope spreads its wings to those of us who are privileged to be in his orbit. From his family and friends, to the doctors and staff who laugh at his jokes and sing his songs, Shmulie spreads light and hope to all.
Children see things through the purest lens. It’s a blessing to have a glimpse into their genuine lives. I have learned so much from the children that I encountered on the cancer floor. Their smiles, their open hearts and their shining eyes tell a story of courage, strength and bravery.
Leaving Egypt was an experience filled with uncertainty. How would they be fed, clothed, and protected against the dangers of the desert? But the children never doubted. When Pharaoh’s soldiers had tried to kill them, the children had been hidden and kept alive by great miracles. They knew G‑d was their redeemer.
Every year, as Pesach approaches, we are told to imagine the story of Exodus as if it is happening today.
We do this by cleaning out not just our homes, but our inner selves, working to overcome our personal exiles and limitations and transform them to good.
Watching Shmulie transcend his fears and pain has taught me the meaning of real emunah (faith). His trust in G‑d is shown in his vibrant spirit, happiness and love of life even during the most frightening and difficult times. Ashreinu, how fortunate are we, to have the children teach us what it means to be grateful and serve G‑d with joy.
Yes, I feel ready to leave my Egypt and celebrate Passover. Listening to the children chant the Mah Nishtanah (Four Questions) will definitely be my highlight.
May G‑d answer our prayers, whatever they may be, and bless all of His children with a kosher, happy, and healthy Passover.