A Weekly Column
By Joseph Walker


For my friend, Ben, this time of year is awash in miracles.

Never mind that spring is taking its own sweet time this year in working its annual miracle on our lawns and gardens.  The promise is the same every year: warm sunshine is coming, and not just because Poor Richard says so.  Soon our apple trees will blossom, our lilies will bloom and our teenage son, Jon, will begin adding to his already impressive litany of reasons why he shouldn’t mow the lawn today (last year, for example, he cited empirical evidence from – he swears – a former Vice President of these United States suggesting that it throws off the earth’s ecological equilibrium if you mow the lawn on days ending with “y.”  Who knew?)

For Ben, the miracles of the season that are uppermost in his mind this week are thousands of years old.  They begin with a baby in a basket being rescued from a river and continue through a familiar assortment of miraculous occurrences: the voice of God speaking through a burning bush, one of the world’s greatest rivers being turned to blood and a mighty nation being brought to its collective knees by the divine imposition of plague and pestilence.

“Mostly,” I told Ben in a feeble attempt to prove my understanding of his Jewish tradition, “Passover is about . . . you know . . . that night when God sent this smoky, gassy stuff throughout Egypt that sort of killed the firstborn from all the Egyptian families, including Yul Brynner’s son, but it passed over the houses of the Jews, who had painted their doors with lamb’s blood.  Hence the name . . . you know . . .  Passover.”

Ben smiled patiently.

“Well, yes,” he said.  “Passover is about the miracle of deliverance, although I’m not exactly sure about the smoky, gassy stuff or Yul Brynner’s son – I think that’s more Cecil B. DeMille than Old Testament.  But for me, it’s more about what that miracle represented.”

“Freedom?” I asked.  “You know . . . for the children of Israel?”

“Well, yes,” Ben said.  “That’s an important part of it.  But eventually the children of Israel turned their backs on God and ended up in captivity again.”

I guess I hadn’t really thought about that.  “So the deliverance from Egypt was sort of . . . pointless,” I observed.

Ben smiled patiently. Again.

“Not pointless,” he said.  “It just wasn’t permanent.  But all of the Passover miracles culminated in something that HAS endured through the years – miraculously.”

I thought for a moment.  “Charlton Heston?” I asked.

His patient smile didn’t wane – but it did waver a little.

“Close,” he said.  “The Ten Commandments.  Not the movie.  The Law.  That is the great, enduring miracle that was the end result of all of the Passover miracles.  God miraculously gave His law, which has become the foundation of all law throughout most of the world.”

My religious orientation is different from Ben’s, but it embraces the miracles of Passover and it cherishes the Ten Commandments.  While there are many today who view these simple, basic rules for living as archaic and obsolete, I have never known anyone who got into trouble – morally, legally or otherwise – by living life in harmony with these guidelines.

The Ten Commandments aren’t about limitations, they’re about choices.  Choosing to live them leads us toward loving, honoring and respecting God, our families and our fellow travelers on this planet.  Whether this week you are celebrating Passover, Easter or the eventual arrival of spring, they are part of the promise of the season.

And certainly part of the miracle.

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— © Joseph Walker

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