If It Had Not Happened

“We… will make decisions in our personal lives and for the nation…. Let us be as sure as we can possibly be that the consequences are those we want.”

We have all played the game called “What If…”: “If I hadn’t [fill in the blank], I wouldn’t have the life I have today.”  When he delivered this sermon on March 27, 1966, Rabbi Olan was thinking of Moses and Passover.  He asked, what if Moses had not led the Hebrews out of Egypt to freedom?  How would the world be different?  Has freedom been worth all that the Jews have suffered since the Exodus?

Rabbi Olan’s answer to this last question is a resolute “yes”, but he reminds us that freedom means responsibility.  He asks us to think about the dual aspects of our lives: the working of chance, over which we have no control, and the constant necessity of making choices, which enjoins us to make the best choices that we can, even though we cannot be sure of the consequences.

At Passover in 1966, Rabbi Olan, thinking about the consequences of our choices, talked about “the supreme issue” of that time being war.  Today, while war and peace are clearly still crucially important, many people would substitute climate change and protecting the environment as the “supreme issue” of our own time.  Once again, we are called upon to make the best choices that we can, but this time for the survival of life on our planet.

Follow this link to read the sermon text.
Follow this link to listen to the audio recording.
Follow this link to watch the scrolling-text video.

*Written by Frances M. Olan and Lionel S. Joseph*