Rabbi's Commentary: What Can We Learn From Passover?
March 25, 2010
Dear Friend of Israel,
The Jewish holiday of Passover - in Hebrew, Pesach - begins next Monday at sundown. The holiday commemorates the most significant event in Jewish history - the Exodus of the children of Israel from bondage in Egypt to freedom in the Promised Land.
The story is familiar to anyone who knows the Bible. Joseph's brothers and their families moved to Egypt due to the famine in Canaan. Years later, a new pharaoh arose who enslaved the Israelites and caused them much suffering. But the Jews cried out to God, who heard their prayers and sent Moses to Pharaoh with the message to "let my people go." When Pharaoh repeatedly refused, God brought plagues upon the Egyptians. After the devastation of the final plague, the killing of Egypt's firstborn, Pharaoh ordered the Israelites to leave. Later, God hardened Pharaoh's heart and Pharaoh's armies pursued them into the desert.
Before fleeing Egypt, God tells the Jews to sacrifice a lamb, one of the many Egyptian gods at the time, and eat it hastily. They were also instructed to sprinkle lamb's blood on the doorposts of their homes to show their faith in God and their willingness to defy the Egyptian deity. The angel of death, seeing the blood on the doors of the Jewish homes "passed over" them and spared the children inside. And so, the name of the festival, and the sacrifice offered, became known as Passover.
The Jewish people have come a long way from the biblical days. There is now a Jewish state the sovereign nation of Israel, a place where Jews can live proudly as Jews, and experience all the joys - and responsibilities - of self-determination.
And yet, in some ways the Jewish people and the Jewish nation are still seeking the liberation they sought when they made their torturous trek through the wilderness in biblical times. Israel is still embattled, surrounded by enemies that refuse to accept her existence. Many nations apply a double standard to Israel, scrutinizing and criticizing her more harshly than they would another country. The belief that the Jews are not entitled to a state in their historic homeland has again become acceptable, even in polite circles. Anti-Semitism is on the rise around the world.
It is easy to get discouraged. But in the Passover story we are given a hopeful message: God hears the cries of His people in need and delivers them from their oppression. This Passover, let all of us Jews and Christians alike hold fast to the words uttered by Moses as he led the Israelites from the pursuing Egyptian armies: "Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today" (Exodus 14:13). And let us continue to lift up Israel, the Jewish people - and indeed, the entire world - in our prayers.
With prayers for shalom, peace.
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Visit the Stand For Israel Website: http://www.ifcj.org