"That same night they are to eat the meat roasted over the fire, along with bitter herbs, and bread made without yeast." - Exodus 12:8
The Torah portion for this week is Bo, which means "come," from Exodus 10:1-13:16, and the Haftorah is from Jeremiah 46:13-28.
Recently, I read an article about a woman's travels to South Africa. She was exploring what was once an extremely lucrative gold mine, and her guide pointed out that there were still remnants of gold in the mine. The woman shined her flashlight around the cave and came across flecks of gold. Sure that she had spotted the real thing, she pointed it out to the guide. But the guide only laughed and explained that she was looking at "fool's gold." It looked like gold, but was really only 20 percent gold.
Next, the guide pointed out what real gold looked like -a tiny, black rock. "That's 99 percent gold," the guide explained. "But it doesn't look like gold!" the woman replied, astonished. The guide explained the complicated process that turns that black rock into gold as we know it. First, the rock is crushed and pulverized into powder. Then cyanide, a potentially poisonous substance, is added to make a paste. After more numerous and complex steps, gold is finally gold.
In this week's Torah portion, as the children of Israel were about to leave Egypt, God commanded them to commemorate the event every year with the holiday of Passover. One of the directives for observing this holiday was to "eat the meat roasted over the fire, along with bitter herbs, and bread made without yeast." The meat refers to the Passover lamb and the bread is the thin, unleavened cracker that today we call matzah. They were to be eaten together with bitter herbs every Passover.
Today, we no longer have the Passover lamb sacrifice, but we still eat matzah and bitter herbs, both important symbols at the Passover Seder. The Jewish sages note that the Passover lamb and the matzah are both symbols of redemption, while the bitter herbs are a reference to the slavery in Egypt. God commands us to put both symbols together so that we remember one of the most powerful lessons of the Exodus story: That our difficulties and our victories are all part of the same story.
Just as gold can't become gold without going through a difficult process, so, too, do our challenges refine us and bring out the value within us. Don't be fooled by those who walk around looking like gold. Many people look good on the outside, but that doesn't necessarily mean that they are good. Most of the best people in the world have gone through hard times. They've gone through a refinement process.
So embrace the challenges that come your way. God is bringing out the gold in you. No matter how dark and hard life may seem for you today, God can refine you and make you shine.
With prayers for shalom, peace,
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President