Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Fleetwood Mac and the Seder

The rock/folk band Fleetwood Mac has an interesting elaboration on the exodus from Egypt. Rabbi Adlerstein at Cross-Currents has posted his annual shiur (or talk) about Passover. These are always interesting. He comes up with Passover insights from a variety of sources that are not just smart and clever and insightful, but also that are not well known.

In one drash, he discussed the idea of the exodus from Egypt being solely the result of divine love. (I won't elaborate; listen to the lecture). This reminded my of Fleetwood Mac's absolutely beautiful and haunting song "Gypsy" which is partially about the death of Stevie Nick's close friend. One verse is

And the gypsy that remains
Faces freedom, with a little fear
I have no fear; I have only love.

Several years ago, I heard that song on the radio just before Passover, and ever since, I have thought of those lines in the context of the Exodus. (You have to get a little postmodern here; Stevie Nicks certainly was not thinking of the Exodus.)

Fear and love are not typically contrasted with each other. Fear and courage, perhaps. Or love and hate, or love and indifference. But fear and love do contrast with each other nicely.

People faced with an expansion of freedom often react with "a little fear." Perhaps not a lot; freedom is a good thing and cause for celebration. But the freedom also raises the troubling question of what to do with one's life. That requires choices, priorities, and wisdom. Before that, the slavery and narrow places had at least provided structure, albeit at a great personal cost.

The children of Israel seem to react to their freedom with fear. At the Sea of Reeds, they ask, "Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you brought us to the desert to die? What have you done to us by bringing us out of Egypt?" (Exod. 14:11.) They complaint about the food and water, and then build the golden calf. They incessantly whine and complain. And that attitude might have been caused, at least in part, by the fear resulting from not really knowing how to lead a free life.

Both God's response and the freed slaves' response could be the last line of that verse. "I have no fear; I have only love." God freeing the slaves was a manifestation of his love, as was the later giving of the 10 Commandments and other rules. And one principle the freed slaves could use to structure their lives was to emulate this love: try to take the morally correct action and help others, and in doing so, lead a meaningful and thoughtful life. I imagine both God and the slaves singing the last line in harmony.

Pharaoh also has a Fleetwood Mac song. : )

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