For a Wandering People:
Why is this night different than any other history?
The Past Meets the Future [David Brooks, NYT 041306] *
David Brooks TimesSelect piece written between first and second Passover seders attempts to bridge the story of Exodus with the situation in Iraq, the story of liberation, and the historical process of democratization. However, he fails to do so adequately because his dialogue and dichotomy between a cynical, caustic Mr. Past and a patient, long-term optimistic Mr. Future fails to grasp the inimical persistence of evil alluded to above and the history of salvation through which humanity is liberated and redeemed.
The central lesson of the past three years is that societies are not that malleable. Evils do not grow out of manageable defects in the environment that can be neatly fixed. We need to change our mentality, scale back to more realistic expectations.
He fails to do so because he filters out God’s role in the story of Exodus, preferring instead to say “[t]he finest things humans have done have been achieved in the Exodus frame of mind”.
While Brook’s dialogue between Mr. Past and Mr. Future models in some respects the seder’s format of a dialogue between generations, between parents and their children, it fails to grasp the overall import of the Passover celebration.
While his sentiments for true liberation encapsulated in the traditional proclamation of “Next Year in Jerusalem” are in the right place, he forgets that this toast is the last of four cups poured out, blessed, and shared on this night unlike any night. For we were a wandering people, adrift, before our own history was drawn up in an eternal covenant.
Why is this night, this time now, different than all others? Four cups of wine on this night to proclaim God frees us from our labors, delivers us from slavery, rescues us, and takes us as God’s own. (cf. Exodus 6:6-7).
Human history is not a compromise between Mr. Past and Mr. Future waiting for what will prevail. Without salvation history we flatter ourselves with our godless accomplishments or continue to wander the same unbroken pattern of a history built upon sand.
*This is a TimesSelect article. Unfortunately, only members have access to the full article.