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Maccabi World Union Pesach Message

 

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

‏כ"ו אדר תשע"ב

חג הפסח: חג חרות

The Festival of Pessach and the Celebration of Freedom

 

Dear Friends,

 

Of all the significance invested in the Passover Festival, this is best-known: Chag HaCherut, the celebration of the Jewish People's liberation from the yoke of the Pharaohs 3,340 years ago.  From the famously emphatic "Avadim hayinu, ata Bnei Chorin" ("Slaves we were, now we are Free") of the Passover Haggadah to the maror[1], salt water and charoseth[2], our Passover Seder is designed primarily to remind us that we are today the descendants of slaves freed by divine action under the leadership of Moshe Rabbeinu, whose name is invoked only once in the traditional Haggadah[3].

 

It was a national liberation, in fact our first step as a Nation, something we chose as a People. While our tradition emphasizes the theme of divine redemption – the foundation stone of our People - we chose to be free: we embraced that miraculous divine intervention as our own, and set out to find our place as a Nation amongst the Nations of the World.


During the dark centuries of our Exile, when our national freedom was no more than a hope - HaTikvah - some of our teachers changed their explanations of the freedom we celebrate on Passover abandoning its national level to focus on our freedom as individuals. The spirit of collective liberation was so distorted as to refer to the Passover liberation as being from our own Mitzrayim, our Egypt[4] and attributing various interpretations to the concept of "Egypt". While we have recovered our national life, this trend still continues into our time, and it is especially exacerbated in this individualistic postmodern era, so alienated from, and often rejecting, group and national frames. Thus, the Freedom of Pessach becomes a struggle against "our materialism", "our preconceptions", "our need to control", "our limitations", "whatever restricts our growth", and so on in that vein. For some, it was easier to focus on "the individual" than on "the whole", a concept that involves a committed look to include our neighbors' realization as an integral part of our own.

 

 

Judaism has always been enriched by the multiplicity and variety of messages in the profusion of explanations drawn from its Sources, even though the same source is made to produce several interpretations, some straying far away from the source. Thus, Passover holds such great meaning that it indeed has uplifting messages on both the national and the personal levels, but undoubtedly the most widespread and popular interpretation and essence of our celebration is the national one.


One teacher who elaborated about the meaning of the Freedom of Pessach in its national sense was Rabbi Bunam of Peshischa[5]. Commenting on the verse from Exodus VI: 6, 'I am the Lord, and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians', Rabbi Bunam offered the following exegesis:

"A burden" he said, "someone can usually take easily after one has become accustomed to it. When the Lord noted that the Children of Israel were getting used to their work [as slaves], performing them without complaint, then He understood that it was time for them to be released. "


Rabbi Bunam explained that slavery generated a loss of meaning itself of the burden that entails the loss of freedom and the abuse it produces. Rabbi Bunam reminded his contemporaries that a people can succumb if they are insensitive to the very oppression that they are submitted to. He said this because he knew that the times in which he lived, the tumultuous late 18th and early 19th centuries in Europe, might perhaps produce an opportunity for the national redemption of our People who suffered so much abuse, persecution and expulsion.


Historically, Rabbi Bunam's interpretation was correct. The deep consciousness of the sufferings of the Jewish People through 17 centuries of Exile made for clear understanding by even the least learned Jew of what Theodor Herzl achieved through the Congresses of the Zionist Movement that re-established the Jewish Nation which eventually created the State of Israel. To a People who cherished and repeated the saga of how God through His servant Moses awoke the oppressed Jews from their slumber more than 3000 years before, it was easy to see Herzl as a Prophet leading the Children of Israel back to our Land. Rabbi Bunam understood, and Herzl followed his interpretation of Passover, that its essence is about national freedom, that this is the call, the cry and voice reminding us that we cannot live under the abuse of our oppressors, that the true freedom of any People can only emerge in a place of their own, where they are responsible for their own destiny, where all dilemmas, all questions, all internal conflict can crystallize, be stated, discussed, analyzed and applied in the daily life of a normal Nation. Pessach is national freedom and consciousness of our liberation, our yearning through the ages and our demand even in our times, to achieve national autonomy and fulfillment.

 

Top of Form

 

 

May God grant that this Seder inspires us to recover the essential significance

 of the National Freedom of Pessach.

 

May God bless this gathering of our cherished ones around the

Passover Table in loving embrace and meaningful dialogue.

 

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Read phonetically

 

Dictionary

And May this Seder and all our future Seders

be celebrated in times of
liberation and redemption of our People
and of all men and women of good deeds!

 

Chag Pessach Sameach!

Chazak ve'ematz!

 

Rabbi Carlos A. Tapiero

Deputy Director-General & Director of Education

Maccabi World Union



[1]  Bitter herbs, symbolic of the bitterness of our slavery and sufferings in Egypt

[2] The doubly symbolic paste, whose brownish color evokes the earthen bricks with which our forefathers built Pharaoh's monuments in our time of slavery, and the sweetness of our redemption through the taste of its traditional components (apple, dates and/or plums).

[3] "Israel saw the great hand that Hashem inflicted upon Egypt; ... and they had faith in Hashem and in Moshe, His servant." (Shemot 14:31).

[4] Many of these explanations were made to avoid endangering Jews to a desperate situation where freedom and national liberation in a time of extreme oppression and alleged "divine abandonment"

[5]  Rabbi Simcha Bunim Bonhart of Peshischa (1765–1827) was one of the main leaders of Hasidic Judaism in Poland. After studying Torah at yeshivot in Mattersdorf and Nikolsburg, he was introduced to the world of Hasidism by his father-in-law, and became a chasid ("follower") of the Hasidic leaders of his time.

Maccabi World Union Pesach Message
Maccabi World Union.jpg
Of all the significance invested in the Passover Festival, this is best-known: Chag HaCherut, the celebration of the Jewish People's liberation from the yoke of the Pharaohs 3,340 years ago.