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Passover 2024 Passover Message from Rabbi Neil

A New Wish this Passover

Between Ivy League presidents deciding whether Jewish genocide is kosher or not and Israel in friction with Iran and war with Gaza, the last seven months have been vexing and stressful. Unfortunately, it’s not the first time we Jews have been in these harrowing positions. Yet, Passover should give us some hope.

Rabbi Joachim Prinz was a rabbi in Berlin from 1933-1937. Under the Nazi regime, he saw the rights of Jews disintegrate year after year. He writes that during this time, the Jewish Holidays assume a new importance:

“No longer were they perfunctory observances of the day. They became part of the context of danger, fear, death, and hope in which we lived. Passover was now the great day of hope for delivery from our own Egypt. The whips that beat the naked bodies of Jewish slaves in Egypt were the very same that struck our bodies. Slavery was no longer an abstract term foreign to the world of the twentieth century. We could now identify with the slaves for we, ourselves, were third-class citizens and, therefore slaves. Those people who had been taken from their homes and whom we no longer saw but about whose fate we knew, illustrated the Haggadah in colors much more telling than those of the most graphic illustrations we had ever seen. The Passover slogan, ‘From slavery unto freedom,’ became the song of our lives. If the slaves of Egypt could be delivered from their fate, so would we. All the songs at the seder table were sung with new emphasis and meaning and great religious fervor. When we read that ‘in every generation on is obligated to see oneself as one who personally went out from Egypt,’ and it was not only our ancestors who God set free from slavery,’ the identification was complete. It was not historic memory. It was not history at all. It was the reality of every day and the hope of every person. Someday, we said, we shall be free.”[1]

Hope-Hatikvah became the national anthem for Israel because that’s what yearly immersion in the Seder and the festival of Passover has taught us. For more than seventeen centuries, the Seder made us believe that we were worthy of being free and concluded with a hope of being masters in our own land-L’shana Haba’ah b’Yirushalyim, next year we’ll be in Jerusalem.

Now that we’re back in Jerusalem, perhaps we should reword our wish: “Next year, may we be at peace with our neighbors in Jerusalem and around the world.” It seems like a long shot, but if our first prayer was answered, why can’t this second one?

Wishing you a Zissen Pesach,

R’ Neil, Judy, and family

[1] A Different Night Haggadah, Noam Zion and David Dishon, The Shalom Hartman Institute, 1997. Page 77

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