Pesach Reflections — Moses, personal privilege and reclaiming authenticity

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By Jacqui Benson

One can retell the Pesach story to our children as we are ‘instructed’ to, and tell it at face value. Important, but not particularly useful, because we stay stuck in the past. Definitely no freedom there.

My approach is to use the time to reflect on our world, today.

This year over the Seder table I am focusing on Pesach’s central figure — Moses.

Let’s get straight to the point, Moses, our leader, who led us out of Egypt to the Promised Land, was a reasonable man, living a comfortable life. He used his stutter as a reason to decline Hashem’s request to intervene on behalf of the Israelites, despite being the obvious and best-placed person to do so — given his association to Pharoah’s palace. Whilst his own nation was enslaved, he was ‘comfortable’ not having to endure their plight, having escaped to enjoy his privilege. You could liken it to the kind of modern day privilege we as white Jewish South Africans tend to enjoy living in South Africa in 2018.

Like him, we can escape the harsh realities facing the majority of the population and just get on with our lives, never having to do anything different.

Unfortunately for Moses, Hashem had other plans. When confronted, he showed his reluctance to be the one to lead, and it took serious coercion to show him that he could not simply run away and stick his head in the sand.

It was only when he acknowledged his own fears and took ownership of these, that the path to being a leader became clear. He had to ‘give up’ his view of his ability, he also had to give up looking good and the notion that you have to be perfect to be able to lead.

Whilst stuttering is a physical speech impediment that most of us do not have, it is worth asking the question, if we were in Moses’ shoes, where do we ‘stutter’? Where do we use our circumstances to validate our own behaviour, to justify to ourselves why it should not be us that step up to the plate?

This Pesach it is worth doing some introspection to see where we are not currently experience personal freedom because we are not willing to speak up.

It can start with a look at who is at your Seder table and asking yourself if you can have an honest authentic conversation with all of the people there. Are you perhaps hiding out? Scared to say something because you think what you have to say, or the act of you saying it, may not look good?

Are you waiting for the perfect opportunity that never comes? Do you withhold yourself from your partner/spouse/child/parent/in-law, your love perhaps, because of some resentment that has been there for weeks, months or even years?
Or is there someone in your midst who you know is not ‘free’ with themselves, dealing with some aspect of their life which is not working, yet you never say anything about it? — the proverbial elephant in the room.

This Passover, I am going to take the opportunity to reflect on my own authenticity with the people around me and give up holding onto the ideas and reasons that keep me trapped and constrained, and not having certain conversations that need to be had. I am taking on being open and reclaiming my freedom and I invite you to do the same.

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