Beloved Friends, 

Friday will mark the last day of Passover. Though it may create some confusion, Reform Jews follow the custom of Jews living in Israel who only celebrate one day of the festival instead of two. The first and last days of Passover are designated as full holy days. We held our first day of Passover worship on Saturday morning and we will hold our last day of Passover, (for us, the seventh day), on Friday morning. 

The last day of Passover is marked by special scriptural readings and the inclusion of Yizkor. For me, the significance of Yizkor, the Service of Remembrance, on the last day of Passover is the through-line of having placed ourselves in the sandals of our ancestors at the Passover Seder to our own immediate family members who have passed from this earth. L’dor v’dor customs, rituals, and wisdom pass from one generation to the next.  

“The Song at the Sea” (Exodus 15) is the special Torah reading for the seventh day of Passover. Our ancestors broke into celebratory song and dance at the behest of Moses and Miriam expressing gratitude for their redemption. But, the grammatical form within the poem indicates that the celebration is not just for the immediate experience of the Israelites but also for the redemption that will occur in future generations. The Mussar middah, the spiritual attribute, that comes forward for me most in thinking about this passage is Bitachon (Trust). 

Bitachon, trust that we do not know the whole story in any given situation. This is the spiritual attribute that Nachshon, the son of Aminadav, exhibited at the shore of the Sea of Reeds. Nachshon did not know how the story of the Israelites would unfold at all. Yet, even so, he exhibited a form of Bitachon that we call faith. This is what allowed him, according to the Midrash, to wade into the waters of the unparted sea. Somehow he knew that there was more to the story, so he simply kept moving forward leading the Israelites safely to the other side. They did not drown and they were not recaptured by the Egyptians. 

The Midrash does not contain any words of gratitude for Nachshon from the people. The words we do have are an ode to God’s glory, an ode of gratitude. The words we sing in worship to this day are drawn from our ancestors’ words of praise. The words of Mi Chamocha, extolling God’s greatness, are inserted not just to reconnect us with that moment of redemption. No, they call on us to trust, to cultivate the spiritual attribute of Bitachon in future redemption. 

Mi Chamocha baelim Adonai? Who is like You, Adonai? The answer is that we are supposed to be like God. We are supposed to be redeemers of those who are in bondage. We are supposed to be redeemers of ourselves when we feel that our hands are bound and we are unable to act. The spiritual attribute of Bitachon is the engine that drives us to actively engage in the work of redemption. Who is like God, Redeemer of Israel? We are to be like God, redeeming all who are oppressed. 

As we bring the Festival of Pesach to a close, let us remember all who have passed. Let us bring their memories forth for blessing that spreads light. Let “L’Shanah Haba’ah B’Yerushalayim Next Year in Jerusalem” (the words with which we close our Passover Seder) be the inspiration and aspiration for all, that we may truly live in Yerushalayim a city that is Shalom, a place of wholeness, well-being, and peace. 

Shabbat Shalom,