On Friday afternoon we were driving to my parents’ house to spend Shabbat there. It’s about an hour’s ride from here–out of the Judean Desert, into the Jerusalem Hills, and down into the coastal plain. We like to listen to music as we drive, and as we were driving, the first song from the movie The Prince of Egypt came on.
You’ve seen The Prince of Egypt, right? The opening sequence shows the Israelites enslaved by the Egyptians. We see Jochebed, Moses’s mother, slipping past the Egyptian soldiers down to the Nile River, where she places baby Moses in a basket and sets him afloat. His sister Miriam watches his progress from the reeds on the riverbank, until the basket floats into to the palace of Pharoah and Moses is taken in by Pharoah’s wife. (In the Bible, it is Pharoah’s daughter who finds him, but given how true the movie stays to the Biblical narrative most of the time, I forgive them.) Here’s a video of the whole sequence with the lyrics in English.
So I was sitting there in the car, listening to the lyrics:
Hear our call
Lord of all
Here in this burning sand
There’s a land You promised us
To the promised land
And I looked out the window of the car, and there it was.
The Promised Land.
And all these people driving the cars on this road? The vast majority of them are the descendants, genetic and/or spiritual, of those slaves.
I am one of them.
I’ve lived here for 19 years now, and most of the time I don’t really think about it. But every once in a while it hits me how completely absurd it is that I am here.
How totally ridiculous it is that the Jewish people still exist at all.
How entirely outrageous it is that a tiny minority such as us has impacted global history the way we have.
How utterly insane it is that we returned from a 2,000-year exile to establish a sovereign state–despite the constant efforts of our neighbors to destroy us–and resurrect our ancient language to become our vernacular.
I grew up with these stories as fact, so it doesn’t sound all that strange to me until I realize that this stuff has never happened before. Ever. In the history of humankind. To anybody.
Even if you don’t believe a single word of the Biblical narrative… the story of my people is truly astonishing.
It reminds me of an article I read recently about how science is increasingly making the case for “intelligent design.” Scientists are starting to realize that the odds of any planet in the universe supporting life are less than zero… including this one. In other words, knowing what we know now about the overwhelmingly improbable conditions necessary for a planet to support life, the claim that it happened by chance is now starting to sound crazier than the claim that it happened by design. Like the famous example given by Rabbi Bahya ibn Piquda in 11th century Spain: “If a man were to bring before us a page of orderly script, which could not have been written without a quill, and he says ‘Ink spilled on the page and the script arranged itself,’ we would be quick to declare his words false…” (“Duties of the Heart,” 1:6)
That awkward moment when science says that being an atheist takes a greater leap of faith than being a theist.
But for me, this isn’t about who is right and who is wrong. It’s about those moments when you look around you and you see God everywhere and in everything. Sweet moments that have become a lot rarer as I’ve grown older and my view of the world has become more complex. I still have so many questions why, and they can be suffocating and overwhelming and distancing. But every once in a while He’ll find a way to remind me that there is a preponderance of evidence of His love for me.