Sunday, May 9th 2021   |

Monarchs

By RABBI JOSEPH H. PROUSER

In her collection of essays on the beauty and lessons of nature, “World of Wonders,” poet Aimee Nezhukumatathil reflects on the Monarch Butterfly. She notes that “there’s a spot over Lake Superior where migrating butterflies veer sharply.” A geologist explained this mystery, she writes, by concluding that, thousands of years ago, a mountain stood on that very spot. The consequent navigational necessities were somehow encoded: transmitted through countless generations of butterflies… which now – still – turn where the mountain once stood.

Jews observing the Passover Seder have a similar experience. We, too, follow an annual pattern of ritual behavior inaugurated millennia ago by ancestors occupying very different geographical, political, and spiritual terrain. We recall and re-enact the Exodus: our forebears’ flight from a tyrannical monarch… in search of more desirable and hospitable climes. Along the way, they, too, encountered a mountain – in the Wilderness of Sinai – that forever altered their national direction and the course of human history. That mountain continues to shape the spiritual journey of their distant descendants.

Nezhukumatathil continues: “These butterflies and their offspring can still remember a mass they’ve never seen, sound waves breaking just so, and fly out of the way.”

We faithfully celebrate the Exodus, our own freedom, and the Voice that spoke at Sinai…

…and our souls take wing.

(Rabbi Joseph H. Prouser is the rabbi of Temple Emanuel of North Jersey and the former National Chaplain of the National Jewish Committee on Scouting.)

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