The Jewish world is preparing for Passover. Beyond its significance as the most celebrated home holiday is its importance as the launch point of the Jewish people. It is the official acknowledgment that a family generated through our Ancestors had become a nation, a people tasked with the responsibility to develop a society grounded in partnership with God and motivated to create a government run not by a pharaoh type ruler but by leadership guided by God focused on what is good for the people and the world. This, then, is the Jewish New Year, a beginning that came into being in the middle of the night characterized by the least likely celebratory food, Matzah.
The fact that two weeks and 3200 years later we commemorate the worst event in Jewish history reflects the aptness of celebrating our beginnings with the dry taste of unleavened bread. If Passover marks the start of our people, Yom HaShoah is the day to focus on what was nearly the end of our people. Some historians suggest that one reason Germany lost World War II was that they prioritized destroying the Jews over militarily winning the war. When there was a choice of using the trains to keep supplies and troops flowing to the battle front or to keep the schedule of moving Jews to concentration camps, the Jews came first. Had Germany won the war, we might not be here today preparing for Passover.
A week and a day after Yom HaShoah we celebrate a miraculously wonderful modern holiday, the rebirth of Israel in 1948. After 2000 years of yearning and dreaming of a third Jewish commonwealth, after the second was destroyed by Rome in 70 C.E. when the remnants of us were scattered over the world, Israel is an amazing response and antidote to the incomprehensible devastation of the Holocaust. How ironically appropriate that Yom Haatzmaut, Israel Independence Day, is celebrated a week after Yom HaShoah.
In this time-oriented system that is Judaism, we start with a joyous birthing process that includes bitter herbs and lots of celebratory wine along with parsley’s taste of spring dipped in the tears of slavery.
We go from precarious birth to near death in recent times to precarious rebirth of the state of Israel as a people-saving gift out of the ashes of the Shoah.
This Passover nothing is assured: not safety and security in a turbulent world, nor Israel’s future with enhanced weaponry on its borders and a soon to be armed and devastatingly dangerous nuclear Iran (led by a fanatic who denies the Holocaust happened) readying to strike.
To engage Passover this year, to address the age old task of getting ourselves out of Egypt, we must also pay close attention to the message of Yom HaShoah, that there are evil forces that seek our destruction, and that we are blessed with the reemergence of Israel, that with forces menacing its existence, needs our support and commitment as much as it did when David Ben Gurion declared independence while surrounded by enemies dedicated to its destruction.
In addition to participating in the second night Seder on Thursday, April 9, please be with us on Sunday April 26 at 10:45 AM when Henry Michalski shares his experience of three weeks helping on an army base while Israeli soldiers attempted to neutralize Hamas in the Gaza Strip.
Passover, Yom HaShoah and Yom Haatzmaut are much more than ceremonial this year; they are more about current events, and we have much to learn and ponder in our observances of these sacred days than may have been the case in previous years.