Stories From A Life

Been there. Done that. Writing about it.

Sally Swift

Sally Swift
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA
June 14
VP, Repartee
Swift Retorts
sally: a journey, a venture, an expression of feeling, an outburst, a quip, a wisecrack ... me


APRIL 8, 2012 1:56AM

What Has Become Of The Promised Land?

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"[I]f I were standing at the beginning of time...and the Almighty said to me, "Martin Luther King, which age would you like to live in?" I would take my mental flight by Egypt and I would watch God's children in their magnificent trek from the dark dungeons of Egypt through...the Red Sea, through the wilderness on toward the promised land." Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, April 3, 1968

This week Jews all over the world celebrate Passover. We gather around Seder tables to tell the ancient story of our people's release from generations of bondage in Egypt.

It's a fascinating tale of conflict, drama and suffering. Of hubris, anger and weakness ... in the end, of hope, belief and salvation. It is about the strength of the human spirit, faith in a Higher Power and the primal human desire to be free.

Dr. King understood the universal meaning of Passover. He drew strength from the events Jews commemorate at the Passover Seder, inspiration from the story of mankind's original battle against oppression and final release from slavery. 

The Seder is, in fact, a retelling of the story of Exodus. A reminder of the high price paid by the oppressor as well as the oppressed. A pledge to understand and remember the sacrifice that brought freedom to an entire race.

And a very clear message: Slavery. Is. Wrong.  Freedom. Is. Right.

It happened thousands of years ago to the Jews. It happened hundreds of years ago to the Africans. It's still happening today to people around the world.

Seder Plate

seder plate2

Every year we tell the story of the Exodus to each other and to our children. We display and eat special foods, bitter and sweet, fertile and flat, we ask specific questions, we recite age-old prayers ... all to represent and remind us of the Israelites' bitter enslavement and their mighty struggle to be free.

We do all this to make sure we will never forget the importance of freedom. And of the laws of God, Nature and Humanity.

Passover Belongs to All of Us

10 commandments

You don't have to be Jewish to honor the meaning of Passover. It's far more than a triumph against slavery. If you belong to any organized religion --even if you don't-- the events of Passover helped form who we are today. At least who we stive to be.

Unlike their slave-masters, who worshiped a whole panoply of gods, the Israelites were monotheistic. One people, one God. The foundation of Judiasm, Christianity, Islam. Even, with no disrespect, of Do Your Own Thing.

During the Exodus, we're told, Moses ascended Mt Sinai to commune with God and returned with Ten Commandments. Maybe he did, maybe he didn't. One thing is clear. The Ten Commandments came into being during the great Exodus of the Israelites from slavery.

Something else is clear. The Ten Commandments form the seminal template for how members of a civilized society should behave.

Who's In Charge? And Who Put Them There?

Yes, in modern times we evolved. We created laws, a constitution, courts, governments, leaders, citizen participation and much more. We needed local, national and international commerce, industry, agriculture, education, transportation, infrastructure, medicine, research, protective forces, communication ... the list is virtually endless.

With all that creation, just as in the biblical story of Genesis, came greed and suspicion and evil.

We definitely do not need those devisive emotions and behaviors. Hate. Racism. Sexism. Abuse of those less powerful. Arrogant presumption to decide what is right or wrong for another human being. Radical --perhaps deliberate-- abuse and misuse of power to interfere with our most basic human freedoms. 

It is surely an abomination to practice any of those evils in the name of God.

There is a responsibily that comes with freedom. It's simple, really. To respect and accept the right of everyone to be free from the oppression of being preyed upon, ignored, used.

The Passover celebration of the Israelites' release from bondage has become an abiding symbol of the desire to be free and the power of faith in God, even in the face of overwhelming oppression and evil.

Easter Reminder


It is your symbol too. As many of you celebrate Easter, remember how it all began. One people, one God. Accepting the Ten Commandments and believing in loving our neighbor as ourselves.

The continuing struggle against oppression and evil belongs to all of us. If we forget that and allow hate mongers to turn us against each other, to determine what we do with our bodies and how we choose to behave in the privacy of our homes, we will again become slaves. To people much worse, and arguably more dangerous, than any Pharoh.

If we don't step up and soon, Moses, Mohammed, Jesus, Dr King and all our historic, spiritual, political leaders and role models will have acted in vain.  


Of course I'm angry at the self-righteous trampling of our freedoms, especially in the cynical name of "God's will." I still wish a very Happy Passover and Easter to all the good folks who celebrate with hope and faith. May you enjoy your families and traditions during these holidays.

But please, let us all never forget the fragile foundation upon which our hard-fought freedoms now rest.



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It rather seems appropriate to say, I'm late, I'm late, for a very important date. Hard to type but harder to ignore.
Thanks for sharing this, Sally. I totally agree, we do all have to step up, and soon.
Sally,this for me should be an editors ρick..Thank you for sharing..and the images and the story.."One people, one God. Accepting the Ten Commandments and believing in loving our neighbor as ourselves." I think that this is religion.But Sally I most admired your tags...and your feelings..Scotus is a are right..Rated with thank you and best wishes for these times.
We'd all be better off if less were rendered unto Caesar. The values held high in the stories of Passover and Easter would do us far far better.
The tag you wrote "slavery is alive just more subtle" says it all, and is an uncomfortable and valid slap in the face. If I may add, that we relinquish our freedoms willingly at times too, because we have a need for social acceptance and tendencies towards "going along" with the larger group (for fear of ostracization, or what have you) that prevents true freedom of thinking. 'Course I live in Utah and am not Mormon, so I'm a bit jaded on this issue. -r-
I should clarify that while I say "we" and then refer to my life viewing the group-think and fear of ostracization the Mormons have about being members in good standing with their church, I concede that when I first moved here, I also feared ostracization from them which prevented feeling free. For instance, I didn't wear tank tops or freely carry around my Starbucks, either of which would basically announce my non-Mormon status to all. This fear was self-imposed, and is, at this point--ten years later--a bit embarrassing to admit to.
We need religion because so often so many of us are not naturally inclined to "step up," don't you think? And then sometimes that disinclination latches onto religion and uses it for its contrary ends. And so on and so on, up and down, back and forth. As long as the species can maintain some critical mass of decency there's still hope.

(Is that anything like - if enough Jews follow enough laws - perform enough good works - for enough time the messiah will come?)
Great post. Your tags say a whole lot, too! It helps to hear someone else confirm that we need to step up. I've been listening to Rachel Maddow talk about towns in Wisconsin that have been taken over by the state. If the state appointed manger wants to cancel voting in the next election, he or she can just close the polls. This is scary and so treasonous, I don't know why it is not breaking news.
Thank you.

Pesach (Passover for most of the rest of your readers) is my favorite Jewish holiday, the one I think defines us more than any other. I think it even trumps the High Holy Days because those are merely about our fate and this one is about who we're supposed to be and why.

This is where we learn about empathy. Inviting the stranger in to eat. Repeating over and over and over and over that we were once slaves, we were once oppressed, and so we have to relate to those who still are. And perhaps, most unusually, the ten spills for the plagues - the idea that the suffering of anyone, including those who oppress us and are our enemies, is intrinsically a bad thing. We are not about schadenfreude.

And this is the one annual holiday that is too important to delegate. We don't leave this one to our rabbis; we do it ourselves. We are commanded to do it ourselves. Judaism is, first and foremost, about responsibility, and here we exercise it.

May your words be listened to by as many as possible.
You have made a wonderful post and so timely too!
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Lovely post...and I would just make one little quibble: monotheism is not necessarily wonderful since it posits a ONEness that produces clashes (as with your chart, where the original oneness splits up into various competing onenesses).
Thanks for taking the time over the busy holiday weekend to share this with us. R.
great post, i really enjoyed reading it
Such a beautiful post
Well, much like the biblical Promised Land, this Promised Land has become the Land of Broken Promises.