Ten whole Plagues. Many days. Weeks. Months of preparations. There was even time to collect gold and silver vessels from the neighbors. Time to get organized and start baking… It seems like this could go on forever. And suddenly, chipazon!! A great and almost frantic rush. Get out! Get out! Never mind the packing, never mind the sandwiches! Just go, go, go!
What’s going on?
We always read the story all too fast, so we forget, things took time. The Exodus was not a surprise. We knew it was coming. There was a “process”. After years of slavery, we were slowly reminded that there is a tomorrow; we started relearning that there is hope; that things can actually get better, that we matter, that we have a place to go and things to do; our very own place and our own things, things that, as slaves, we could not even imagine.
That build up was necessary, and had to be gradual, just like when picking up anyone out of any bad situation (see precious blog)…
But then one day, it’s time to go. And go we must in a rush, in chipazon – חיפזון.
Rabbi Hirsch says the root ch.p.z. ח.פ.ז. means – hasten aimlessly. Aimlessly?? Aren’t we going to freedom??
We’re going, that’s for sure. We don’t yet know where to. G-d says to Moses, to a “land of milk and honey”. Moses says to Pharaoh, it’s just a quick trip to celebrate a festival. The experience of the people must be super confusing: strange things happen all around: the river turns to blood, frogs everywhere, lice, animals… It’s no wonder there is “darkness”.
But then comes a day…
The battered woman who prepared her get-away carefully, waiting for that once in a lifetime window of opportunity – and at the same time, fearing that moment – now must act; Our kidnapped soldier from Chatufim (Homeland) who couldn’t even dream that it’s possible, is now being whisked out secretly with no time for goodbyes – though he’s gotten close to his captives! My grandma has to take her three kids and leaves their longtime Berlin home never to look back, unsure whether her husband will be able to join; And the Children of Israel, who “all of a sudden” are in such a hurry that they can’t finish baking bread for the trip, must scurry out, and start the journey.
The two Torah portions – the one of patience and the other, of haste – go hand in hand. There is time for the lengthy prep, but then comes the time to just do, to get up and go.
The tension between the two is constant: When to go along and when to step up and out? Ultimately, this is what might define much of our journey.
If we were G-d and we’re about to start a new nation, what should be the first thing we tell them to do as such? Maybe we’d want them to love us. Or do what we say. Maybe love each other. Or love my Book. Be nice to their neighbors. Give tzedakah. Plant trees. Have a party. Or a holiday.
Creating a calendar might be one of the last things on our lists, but luckily, we are not G-d.
Giving us the power over time is how G-d opts to mark our transition from slavery to nationhood: החודש הזה לכם… This month is to you / for you… (Exodus 12:2), and what a profound way. As if G-d says, I, who created time in the universe, now give you, who were created in my image, authority over your own time. By taking a hold of it, you’ll be free – economically and socially, but also in a much broader and deeper sense. You can decide your comings and goings; you can make time – “yours”. In the most daily, minute way, you’ll be reminded that you’re no longer a slave, but rather, a master.
This difference can be paralleled to the difference between laborer and contractor: the worker must do what he’s told. His time is his boss’s. The contractor on the other hand, takes upon himself (or herself) tasks that s/he manages, that interest him, and handles his own workload. To be clear, we’re not invited to do nothing. Freedom in the Torah is not lazing around. We have a task: “to work and guard (the Garden)” (Genesis 2:15) but how we’re going to do what we do, has just now changed.
And a smile about us and time: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v0bAcKt6zkA