Passover 2024 — History and Hope

Passover 2024 — History and Hope

As Passover approaches, this year’s celebration of the Exodus and Jewish nationhood feels bittersweet. Much to our great sorrow, the well-known maxim that history repeats itself is too often true. The tragic events of October 7, six long months ago, were in many ways reminiscent of the pogroms of the 1800s, and of the monstrous Nazi war crimes a century later. Beyond the horrific events perpetrated by a terrorist organization, there has been the additional pain of open antisemitism on many college campuses across the country.

History teaches us that it is never fruitful to ignore injustice. As Elie Wiesel wrote, neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim; silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.

Moses understood this notion instinctively. Before being selected to lead his nation and deliver the Torah — an event that would forever shape world history — Moses acted to right injustice. When he saw his fellow Jews being whipped, he did what he deemed necessary to put an end to the torment.

Entering the Passover holiday season, we are conscious of pressing world events. As of this writing, there are wars raging in the Middle East and in Ukraine, and many of us feel the threat of antisemitism. It may seem as if the entire world is hanging in the balance. To help put these challenges in perspective, the history of Passover holds valuable lessons that are as applicable to us now as they were when the events occurred.

Some 3,300 years ago, the entire Jewish nation was enslaved and facing infanticide. A tyrant who regarded himself as a deity reigned over nearly the entire world and his Hebrew slaves faced cruel oppression. How could anyone so disempowered imagine escaping the daily hardship and terrible ordeals?

But ancient Jews did not abandon hope, that powerful and essential human quality that has continued to shape the development of humankind. Indeed, when the people joined together, with God’s intervention and deliverance, the cruel oppression was overcome. There was redemption not only for the Jews, but for all peoples who wished to leave the bonds of slavery.

Today, as we wake up to turmoil, it is easy to find ourselves frightened by current events. But the people who lived in the days of the first Passover under a ruthless Pharaoh — and many people throughout history — have faced turmoil that, in their time, was also unprecedented. Ultimately, with perseverance and Divine Providence, slavery and bias can be overcome.

Just as Moses took action to right injustice, today we can speak up and advocate for our people and address bias and double standards that we see playing out in various settings on the local, national, and world stages.

Last weekend, I believe we all witnessed a glimmer of Divine Providence that should embolden us to hope once again. As God and the Iron Dome intercepted hundreds of rockets aimed at Israel and no one was killed, we can envision a modern day redemption.

Passover is steeped in custom and tradition, perhaps the most important of which is the sharing of those traditions with the next generation. This year, let us share a message of hope — because history does repeat itself, and redemption — with God’s help — is never far away. History also teaches us that the desire for freedom and peace will ultimately triumph despite what may seem like impossible odds.

Ultimately, Passover is a time of renewal — a time for affirming our belief that, with determination and God’s blessing, better times are ahead. May those days come speedily.

Dr. Alan Kadish of Teaneck is the president of Touro University.

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