That, in the end, is what Pesach – which begins Friday night – is about for the Jewish people.
We talk about Pesach as Chag Ha’matzot (the festival of matza) and Chag Ha’aviv (the spring festival); it is all of this, as well as being the festival of freedom (Zeman Heruteinu). But first it is about remembering that the Almighty took us out from Egypt with a strong hand.
We were, without a question, freed of forced labor and of the burden of being in Egypt. But that is just the beginning. We were redeemed – which means brought back to God, who claimed us as His people, and gave us Torah.
And lastly, which is a part of the redemption, we were brought to the land that had been given to our ancestors as an inheritance. Though some Jews try mightily to to do this today, there really is no way to separate spiritual redemption from Israel.
I write of this now because – in these terrible times – we so badly need to keep our eye on our redemption. We are God’s people. We must believe it, and act as if it is so.
Our redemption is, of course, incomplete. It is a process. The hope is never to be abandoned, but rather, to be strengthened in every generation.
I think Pesach is also about the miraculous. Certainly our being brought out of Egypt was a miracle.
Today, we can look around and know that the continued existence of Jews as a people is a miracle. Just as the founding of modern Israel – which persists and succeeds unbelievably – is a miracle. If we but have eyes to see.
This is what Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz says about Pesach and redemption:
“Pesach – the Hebrew name for Passover– comes from the Hebrew root PSH which means to skip over, to pass over. It appears first in the context of the ten plagues, in which God skipped over the homes of the Israelites while the rest of Egypt suffered.
“On a deeper, more fundamental level, the Passover festival is based on this idea of passing or skipping over the regular order of things. The Jews did not leave Egypt as part of an evolutionary process. Their departure was a leap, a shortcut. While the exodus was a move from slavery to freedom – a practical, political situation – it was also a transition from oppression to redemption. From beginning to end, the Passover redemption is a leap over an orderly, consistent historical course into a new, different and better state, and into a much higher level of existence.” (emphasis added)
Is not the leap over an orderly, consistent historical course a miracle?
Being mindful of God’s redemption, and of the miracles and the promise of what is yet to come, gives us strength to continue.
We see injustices and inversions of truth and decency that, if we were to allow them to fill our hearts, would destroy us. But they will not.
It is with incredible sadness that I recognize the growing alienation from Israel and traditional Jewish values of many young Jews in America, who see themselves as progressives who are able to read out Israel as a core value – and manage to convince themselves that doing this brings them to a higher moral plan, to boot.
And it is with unending disgust that I see how many in the world respond to Israel:
Our prime minster let it be known this week that Israel will not relinquish the Golan Heights. Historically connected to the Jewish people, it is now an area – developed peacefully for almost 50 years – that is critical to Israeli security. But world leaders – choosing to be oblivious both to the horrendous security implications of Israel surrendering the Heights and to the fact that there is no more Syria, but only a number of battling factions that would all like to claim the Heights – chastised Netanyahu, telling him this is not Israeli land. The EU led the way here.
On Monday, a terrorist in Jerusalem set two buses on fire by exploding an incendiary device – injuring over 20 people. Just hours later, the vice president of the United States, Joe Biden, addressed a JStreet Conference, saving his harshest criticism for Israel. Lovely. Whatever we have done in the way of concessions, expressions of good will, has not been enough for him or for his boss, Obama, he told the crowd. No surprise here. He said that sometimes the Obama administration has “overwhelming frustration” with Israel’s leaders, who are taking Israel in “the wrong direction.”
It never is enough: that is the lesson yet to be learned.
As to that terrorist, Biden said he was “misguided.”
Misguided?? There are no words.
And the UN? Its anti-Israel bias is so overwhelming that it is beyond beyond.
The latest outrageous move concerns UNESCO, which in a recent resolution referred to the Temple Mount – Judaism’s holiest site – only as Haram Al-Sharif, as the Muslims refer to it, thereby reading out the Jewish connection to the site. The resolution referred to Jews who visit the Mount as “right wing extremists.”
A battle is growing over Jewish rights to the Mount. Jordan – which has day to day responsibility for the site – was supposed to install cameras to track violence there. But it has abandoned these plans in the face of objections by the Palestinian Arabs, who obviously do not wish to be exposed. Netanyahu has said that Israel, in favor of transparency, still supports the use of those cameras.
So, we have our work cut out for us. Each and every one of us. On many of these topics I refer to here, I will be writing much more in days and weeks ahead.
The flip side of the above is the way that Israel continues to thrive, despite the problems.
The great majority of Israel’s citizen’s want to be here. In polls, they express a high degree of happiness, because they have a sense of purpose. Of the 28 nations in the OECD (the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development ), Israel has the lowest rate of suicide.
We have the most moral army in the world, barring none. Do not ever be fooled that it otherwise.
And Jews here make babies – our ultimate expression of hope for the future – as Jews in galut (diaspora) do not. We embrace our children and celebrate them.
Hope is implicit, as well, in the marvels of Israel’s medical and technological advances.
And in the way that little Israel rushes to help other nations in times of crisis, and offers assistance for their on-going struggles – whether with terrorism or drought or disease. We truly are “Or l’goyim” – a light unto the nations, who more and more actually admit they need us and appreciate what we do (OK, not the US or the EU, but others).
And in the shifting relationship we have with some Muslim/Arab countries.
I often say in my postings that there is more going on than I can write about. Nowhere, my friends, is this more true than with regard to our accomplishments and achievements and good deeds.
So we hold our heads high, and maintain proportion and the long view. And fight like crazy on behalf of Israel. With contempt for the way the world behaves, but without discouragement.
And now, Pesach approaches and I turn my attention away from these postings for a bit.
Attention I routinely devote to my computer will be devoted instead to my family, and to my 12 grandchildren, sabras and Zionists all, who are my own greatest blessing. I will post infrequently, if at all, over Pesach.
To each and every one I wish a Chag Pesach Kasher v’Sameach! May you be uplifted and strengthened by the holiday.
I posted a beautiful version of Yehi She’amda recently and said I would repeat it before Pesach. I do provide Yehi She’amda here, but yet another version, I think even more beautiful. This one, as the other, is using the music and arrangement of Yonaton Razel. Don’t miss this! IDF Cantor Shai Abramson and Cantor Michael Azogui (who is new to me and fantastic here).
Vehi She’amada is from the Haggadah. It offers us an eternal promise:
“And this is that which sustained our fathers and us.
“That is is not one alone that stood up against us to destroy us.
“But that in every generation there are those standing up against us to destroy us.
“But the Holy One Blessed Be He saves us from their hand.”
© Arlene Kushner. This material is produced by Arlene Kushner, functioning as an independent journalist. Permission is granted for it to be reproduced only with proper attribution.
If it is reproduced and emphasis is added, the fact that it has been added must be noted.
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