Passover has arrived, and it is time to put the activities that consume our time aside. Thus, I am not writing about politics or other topics I write about throughout the year. Instead, I will focus on the Seder night on Passover.
At the Seder, we are supposed to feel like we are going out of Egypt. For many people, this is very difficult to accomplish. The Haggadah realizes this and mentions various concepts that are related. For example, it reads, “Not only one has ridden up against us to destroy us, but in every generation, they rise up to destroy us and the Holy One blessed be He rescues us from their hands.” Right after that, the Haggadah states that Lavan, Yaakov’s father-in-law, wanted to destroy us (“Arami oved avi”).
Unfortunately, throughout Jewish history, Jews have been targeted for persecution, whether through the Inquisition, pogroms, and in the last century, the Holocaust. In addition, in the attempt to physically annihilate us, there have been attempts to force Jews to give up their beliefs, either through force or assimilation. For example, under communist Russia, the state did its best to try to stop Jews from practicing Judaism. The plan was that if they could no longer observe and learn about being Jewish, the Jewish community would die out.
These events have a commonality with leaving Egypt. A strong power tried to break the will of the Jewish people. The Jewish people suffered, but in the end, we survived. In many instances, we ended up stronger.
Who would have thought that out of the ashes of the Holocaust there would be born a strong State of Israel? Who would have thought that there would be so much Torah learning in Israel, America, and around the world? Daf Yomi, which was started before the War, was minuscule in comparison to the number of those who are learning it today. Right before COVID hit, on January 1, 2020, all around the world, including at MetLife Stadium, people came together to celebrate the finishing of a cycle of Daf Yomi.
The Haggadah, in telling the story of the Exodus from Egypt, does not gloss over the Jewish people’s struggles. We were subject to 210 years of servitude and other laws, which included killing male newborn babies, in order to destroy the Jewish people both physically and spiritually. Pharaoh was unsuccessful. Instead of the Jewish people being destroyed, we ended up becoming a great nation in numbers and getting the Torah.
Meanwhile, Pharoah has been relegated to the dustbin of history. The Nazis wanted to create a thousand-year Reich. They were destroyed. The Jewish people are still here.
This past week, there was a horrific attack on civilians waiting at a train station in Kramatorsk, Ukraine. Scores of people died. There was video showing the area after people in panic ran from the area, leaving their belongings. They showed a rabbit in a cage. The rabbit could not run away. It could not search for food. It was totally helpless. As I have mentioned in prior articles, I have two guinea pigs. With most pets, the animals are not self-sufficient. The guinea pigs can run around the cage and have food and water. However, without me or others in the family providing them with sustenance in a timely manner, the food and the water will run out and there is nothing they can do about it. The guinea pigs must be making some connection, since when they hear me or other certain sounds, they often get excited and stand up, holding onto the side of the cage waiting to be given food.
These rodents are smarter than many people who think that their survival and success are due to their efforts. When we are living our daily lives, it is easy to make the mistake and think that we are masters of our own destiny. Another theme of the Haggadah is to dispel that notion. G-d rules the world, and we are dependent on Hashem. This was shown by G-d through open miracles, taking down the greatest country of the world led by its fearless leader. On paper, the children of Israel never had a chance of leaving Egypt and then surviving the onslaught of Pharaoh’s army. To emphasize that Hashem controls the world, the Haggadah mentions that Hashem brought the last plague directly and not through a servant, angel, etc.
If we understand some of the underlying themes of the Haggadah, we can appreciate the significance of the Jews leaving Egypt. We are the beneficiaries of our ancestors leaving Egypt. Even though the Exodus occurred a few thousand years ago, we can try to feel the joy and excitement as if we were there.
Have a happy and kosher Passover.
Big words - Pharoah has been relegated to the dustbin of history. The Nazis wanted to create a thousand-year Reich. They were destroyed. The Jewish people are still here