How MAD would we like to be?

BHC member Tom Reisner was guest speaker on Monday, 17 April,
the seventh day of Pesach.


Chag sameach everyone.

I would like to dedicate my presentation today to the memory of 10-year-old Thalia Hakin, who sadly died in the Bourke Street Mall tragedy, on the 20th January this year.

Like me, I hope you are a little bit MAD. Let me explain, MAD stands for making a difference.

Quote – I am the Lord your G‑d, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.

Sound familiar. Yes – it’s the first Commandment that G-d gave to Moses at Mt Sinai, located in Exodus chapter 20.

This is our first hint to the importance of the Passover story, which we are required to remember, read about and to discuss at our Seder table.

You know the story. Our ancestors were slaves in Egypt, G-d spoke to Moses, Pharaoh and the 10 plagues, lots of miracles and the Israelites left Egypt on their way towards the Promised Land.

With this new found freedom came the opportunity for the Israelites to learn and perform the Torah’s codes of daily living. They were also on their way to becoming a nation with their own homeland.

What’s the special link between the first commandment and Passover, the slavery to freedom story?

Consider this, in the very first Commandment; if G-d wanted to amaze the Israelites, surely there were higher-profile achievements to choose from.

As Rabbi Elisha Greenbaum, of Moorabbin Synagogue, explains in his article called Understatement:

“Who took you out of Egypt”? Talk about sweating the small details! What about who created heaven and earth? Surely, on a scale of G‑d’s accomplishments, stage-managing the Exodus doesn’t even approach His role as designer and creator of the universe!”

The Shema, our holiest prayer, in the third paragraph G-d says “I am G-d, your G-d, who has removed you from the land of Egypt to be a G-d to you. I am G-d your G-d”, located in Numbers chapter 15.

There must be much more to our belief in G-d and the Pesach story.

In an episode of Who Do You Think You Are, actor Ben Mendelsohn traces his family history. Ben’s great grandfather, Betzallel Mendelsohn, immigrated to Australia from Berlin in 1860, settling in the gold mining town of Nanango in Queensland.

Consider this extract of a letter he wrote to his wife and young children, shortly before his death in 1897.

“To my dearly loved children, strive constantly after sound learning, master everything thoroughly. In your character and habits be respectful, dignified without conceit, neat in attire without ostentation and liberal without extravagance.

“In all your sayings avoid lying, observe faith and above all, in conclusion my dear children remember the old bible maxim ‘do good and all shall be well with thee’.”

This so wonderfully describes the choices he wanted his children to make, that I believe are still relevant today.

Our very existence is dependent on many factors that control our physical – mental – emotional and spiritual wellbeing.

While slavery tries to dominate, exploit and control these factors, freedom gives us abundant choices, more opportunities, new responsibilities and access to justice.

As former UK Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks so eloquently explains, in his article called Matzah: Symbol of Oppression or Liberty?

“Freedom is not simply the ability to choose to do whatever we like so long as we do not harm to others. It is born in the sense of solidarity that leads those who have more than they need, to share with those who have less.

“Giving help to the needy and companionship to those who are alone, we bring freedom into the world, and with freedom, G-d.”

Do we really appreciate the freedoms we have, you and me, today?

When we are given opportunities and choices to make a difference, do we get involved or do we look for other options?

As Pesach concludes tomorrow [18 April], this may be a good time to review our own freedom choices and to reconsider how MAD we would like to be.