Pesach (Passover) and its Christian equivalent, Easter, are usually celebrated as hugely positive and uplifting events. For what is more uplifting than either “freedom from captivity” or the prospects of “Eternal Life”?
Using these interpretations (and feeling the need to achieve them), folk strive to improve their lives. After all, they now have the freedom to do so. They attempt to have success in many areas: in education, in business, in their family life and in their spiritual life. They push to move upward.
This is despite the fact that in the only physical model we have for life – a human life – the lesson is different.
We begin in the dependency and captivity of our childhood, we struggle through our adolescence to eventually achieve our “freedom” as young adults – in our prime. A prime that lasts such a short time. After a very few moments of this prime, it is just downhill all the way towards our death.
For the vast majority of our life, we are in decline.
I believe that this is the real lesson taught in both Pesach and Easter.
We have our freedom. But it is a freedom to wander for 40 years in the desert before coming to the Promised Land (if you know the area and follow the North Star, it is a hike that would take about 2 weeks). During that time the Jewish people made all sorts of mistakes (not the least of them, navigational) like worshiping the golden calf, disobeying the Commandments etc. Even the great prophet, Moses, who had direct contact with G-d’s wishes, messed up in the end, and was allowed only to see, but never live in, the Promised Land.
In the Christian story: the 33 year old, the Perfect One, was captured, tortured, given His (our?) cross and crucified. Hardly a success story. His resurrection is His (our?) coming to the Promised Land.
So, IMHO, the simple teachings of Pesach and Easter are these:
- DECLINE leads to the truth. Jews call it Exodus and Exile. There is the entire Hebrew Scripture in two words. It is all about a people in exodus; and then, when they get over exodus and try to settle down, G-d leads them into exile. Because those are the two places where we are taught, not in being settled.
- DECLINE leads to the truth. Christians call it the Way of the Cross. Our failings, our inadequacies are discovered and acknowledged throughout our decline. We then bear them – not dragging them behind us like a ball and chain – and learn our lessons.
Surprise of surprises, we do not come to G-d (or see the Promised Land) by doing it right; we come to G-d by doing it wrong!