This Passover, as we celebrate our ancestors’ freedom from slavery, we reconnect through our most important holiday with our centuries-long traditions. It is incumbent upon us to contemplate the broader concept of freedom and what it means to us as individuals, as members of our immediate communities, and as members of the community of Jews across the globe.
Throughout history, Passover has also been the time of increased blood libels and pogroms against Jews. While Jews celebrated freedom, they were being reminded that they were hated to the point of being killed by the dozens, thousands, and millions. As a new wave of anti-Semitism is sweeping over the globe, landing right in Manhattan's UN building and its Jew-hate festival extension in Durban, the tale of the Haggadah we read at the Seder stands to remind us that hate comes knocking on our door first with words, then with economic and academic boycotts, then with biased UN resolutions, and, as in the past, it may end with guns, bombs and incinerators.
Passover also marks the Spring in our ancient agrarian society, a beginning of a cycle of life, with the blooming of trees and the planting of vegetables and flowers. The fresh start of spring also stands to remind us that our friends and fellow Jews are watching with angst the rise in anti-Semitism in countries from Venezuela to Spain. And while these past sixty-one years Israelis—civilians and soldiers—have helped every Jew everywhere walk tall and proud, their existential threat from Iran is real.
“Every Jew should consider himself as if he was freed from slavery,” says the Haggadah we’ll read tonight. In today’s climate we should add that “Every Jew should consider himself as if he’s just escaped a terrorist bomb.” There but for the grace of God and twist of history, we would not have been spared the wrath and bombs of a Palestinians or extreme Muslim murderers taking shelter in our sacred freedom on these shores. Let’s give our prayers and charity to the 6,000 injured Israelis still coping with imbedded nails, burned faces, or missing limbs. And as we do that, let us search within ourselves whether we have done all we could for them, those who have taken the first bullet for us.
The tradition of Passover also calls us to invite to the Seder table any Jew who does not have one. Let’s invite—at least in our thoughts—all our Jewish brethrens in countries that do not offer the freedom and protection that the USA guarantees us. For them, we can raise our collective voice with indignation and outrage and use our collective power to fight tyranny and fanaticism that calls for our—and their—demise.
Therefore, as we move into the Spring, let us bless all the good things the world has given us. This Passover we are not alone at the Seder table. Neither should any Jew be.
Israeli-born Talia Carner is a novelist in New York. (www.TaliaCarner.com)