We are in the midst of the seminal moments of our narrative as a people, and so I’m honored to give the D’var today. A couple of anecdotes to start, one recent and one much older. I will then relate them to today’s parashah.

In what will be remembered as one of the great feats in athletic history, American Colin O’Brady, skied across Antartica, a 932-mile journey, pulling all the supplies he would need on a sled. The sled weighed over 300 pounds at the beginning of the effort. Remarkably, he covered the final 77 miles in one final sleepless, 32-hour burst, becoming the first person ever to traverse Antarctica from coast to coast solo and unsupported. His quest began on November 3, and ended on December 26.

O’Brady’s transcontinental feat was remarkable enough; but to complete the final 77 miles in one shot — essentially tacking an ultramarathon onto the 53rd day of an already unprecedented journey was astounding. When interviewed about how he could possibly find the strength to do what he did in that final burst, he said, “I was getting emotional and nostalgic”. “I was reviewing the entirety of the expedition in my mind, and I was aware that I’m going to tell this story for the rest of my life.” He was inspired by how he would tell his story.

Summer of 1940. Winston Churchill (paraphrasing): “What General Weygand has called the Battle of France is over … (France was lost to the Germans) the Battle of Britain is about to begin. Upon this battle depends the survival of our civilization. Upon it depends our British life, and the long continuity of our institutions . . . The whole fury and might of the enemy will very soon be turned on us.

Hitler knows that he will have to break us or risk losing the war. If we can stand up to him, all Europe may be freed and the life of the world may move forward . . . But if we fail, then the whole world . . . will sink into the abyss of a new dark age. . . Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties, and bear ourselves, so that if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, (people) will still say, ‘This was their finest hour.’” Churchill tried to inspire the British people by telling them how their story would be remembered in future generations.

Two very different examples, but how these stories would be told in the future was at least part of the motivation for enormous effort and courage.

Now of course, with respect to the Torah you all understand by now that I don’t take the Biblical stories literally. But the lessons we glean from them are critical to our understanding of who we are as a people. This is our narrative. It is who we are, and what we have in common. The story of the Exodus explains that we believe that tyrants will fall, that freedom is of paramount importance, and that we have individual responsibility to ensure that these lessons are carried out.

And in today’s parashah, we find an extraordinary narrative. The ninth plague has been exacted on the Egyptians. The tenth – the deaths of the first-born – is about to occur. After this plague, Gd tells Moses, Pharaoh will finally relent and order the Israelites to leave. Many of the rituals of what is to become the Passover sedar are taught to the Israelites, and, anticipating what Pharaoh’s reaction will be and their impending flight from Egypt, Moses addresses the Israelites.

They are about to embark on a long and arduous journey. They had been slaves all their lives and had no idea what would befall them. What would Moses tell them? How would he help them harness the courage necessary to leave what had become a predictable if unpleasant life? How did he inspire them as they prepared for the big event?

He talked to them about their children, and the children who will be born in the distant future. As you’ll read, three times in chapters 12 and 13, Moses returns to the same theme. “When your children ask you . . .” He doesn’t speak to them about the enormous challenge facing them but rather about how the story would be told in the future.

The Israelites are not yet free, and yet Moses directs their attention and their purpose to the far reaches of the future. He wants the story passed along. They are implored to think about generations far into the future.

From this directive of Moses flows the lesson for us – that we must live our lives in such a way that our children will know their family’s story and their people’s heritage. The similarities to the parashah of the quotes and the stories I began with now become clear. Those stories were not about the past or even about the present. They were about the future, and how the past would be remembered. And that was part of the inspiration for great achievements.

And one more small but for me, very inspirational point. Before the 8th plague, Pharaoh offers a deal to Moses. “Moshe,” he said, “You can go, and take a few of the other trouble makers with you. But the women and children must be left behind.” “Thanks, but no thanks,” said Moses. “Either we ALL go or none of us go!” In Judaism, men, women and children, young and old. Worship of Gd is not confined to the men, the elite, the young, or any particular group. In the house of Israel, all are included.

As you know, I’m from Boston, and my hometown football team is the Patriots. Two years ago in the Super Bowl, the Patriots produced the biggest comeback in the Super Bowl’s history. Fox sports carried the game and had some of the players wear microphones. One of those was the small but skilled receiver for the Patriots, Julian Edelman (His father is Jewish, by the way). At one point, the Patriots were losing 28-3, and Edelman, trying to inspire his teammates, was heard on mic twice, yelling, “What a Helluva story this will be, boys!”

Perhaps in his rejection of Pharaoh’s offers earlier, and in his exhortation of the Israelites, Moses was thinking, “What a helluva story, this is gonna be!”