Passover is a celebration of our freedom. Centuries ago, the Torah teaches us that we escaped from Pharaoh and the oppressive life of slavery. During Passover, we remember the darkness of life in Egypt and give thanks for all of the blessings of freedom that fill our lives today. For many of us Pharaoh and his wicked ways are distant memories that only re-emerge around the seder table. This week, however, we were reminded that the darkness of Egypt is not simply a memory, it is still very much alive. The murders at the JCC and the senior community in Kansas and the announcement that Ukrainian Jews were required to register and pay a fine or be deported were frightening reminders that Pharaoh and his wickedness are still very much alive.
At the Passover seder, we are taught to recline to remind us that we get to live like kings and queens today. While we are indeed lucky to have the luxuries that come with freedom, we must remember that there are still Pharaohs out there that seek to take our freedom away. This is why on Passover, while we celebrate our freedom, we are also instructed to dip our parsley in salt water and eat choroset (horseradish) to remind us of the persecution of Egypt. Sadly, we must never forget this persecution because if we do, we run the risk of becoming complacent. Complacency keeps us from recognizing that Pharaoh is still out there and this makes us vulnerable as a people.
The incidents in Kansas and Ukraine not only remind us that Pharaoh is still out there. They also remind us that those of us who are fortunate enough to truly recline at our seders, enjoying a life of freedom, have an obligation to look out and speak up for our Jewish brothers and sisters who are not as fortunate. We must pay close attention to the rise of anti-semitism in certain parts of the world and the existence of hate groups and extremists here in the U.S. We need to ensure that our government speaks out when Jews are attacked, as Senator Kerry did yesterday in response to the incident in Ukraine and as President Obama did on Monday in response to the attacks in Kansas. We have to do whatever we can support to Jews across the globe by getting involved in organizations like the Simon Wiesenthal Center AJC, Federation and the ADL. We must not simply recline on our pillows and enjoy our blessings. We must use our blessings to help comfort and protect others for we were once slaves in Egypt.
May the remaining days of Passover be peaceful. May we use the lessons of the holiday to help others less fortunate than we are. And we all have a Shabbat filled with peace.