THE MATZAH OF HOPE and PEACE
Avadim Hayinu: Not only were we slaves to the Pharaoh of Egypt, we have also been enslaved and persecuted by other Pharaohs. Among these Pharaohs of every age were the Kings of Babylonia, the Emperors of Greece and Rome, the Churchmen and Nobles of Medieval Spain, Hitler and his Nazi followers, the Pharaohs of Moscow, and the dictators, potentates and terrorists of the contemporary Arab world. The Babylonian exile was followed by a return to Zion; the Hellenistic domination by the Maccabean victory; the destruction of the Second Temple by Rome with the flourishing of rabbinic Judaism in both the Land of Israel and Babylonia; the expulsion from Spain by tolerance, first in Turkey and Holland and then, ultimately, by the birth of an American Jewish community. Hitler, the Pharaoh of Auschwitz, whose acts of genocide surpassed the sins of all the other enemies in history: Even he we survived. Thirty years ago the doors in the iron curtain of the Soviet Union were breached and nearly two million Jews were given the opportunity to live freely as Jews.
Yet redemption is not complete. Israeli and Palestinian leaders have yet to find a way to answer the yearning for peace with security that we all seek. Millions of Arabs flee their homes and hundreds of thousands die in the Syrian civil war. Genocide in Darfur continues in the silence of “yesterday’s news”. Anti-Semitism from both the Political Left and Right is on the rise in both Europe and America. Yet perhaps the greatest threat to the Jewish community today is the sin of “Sinat Chinam”, the hatred between Jews of differing religious streams and political perspectives. It is a cancer threatening the body and soul of the Jewish people in the 21stcentury.
The Matzah we eat tonight is both the bread of affliction and the symbol of redemption. For 30 years we added a fourth Matzah to the Seder Plate, calling it the Matzah for Soviet Jewry. We set it aside and did not eat it. Tonight, we must still set aside this Matzah, for redemption is not complete. May this Matzah be a reminder to us of our responsibility to support the efforts of all Jews, who desire to make Aliyah; and of the responsibility of Israeli and American Jewish institutions to be open to both religious and political diversity. This matzah is a reminder to support the rights of Jews everywhere to live free from the fear of anti-Semitism, whether it comes from the right, from the left, or from within.
On this Passover night let us also vow to stand in solidarity with Israel, even when we do not agree with its government policies, and to strengthen Israeli democracy. Let us vow to work for better understanding between and cooperation among Jews of differing religious streams and political opinions. Avadim Hayinu—Tonight we remember that we have been slaves. Ata B’nai Horin—Now, we are the children of freedom. May the year ahead bring freedom and security with peace and prosperity for all of us.
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