[Received by email]
PASSSOVER REFLECTIONS 2007 by Yoram Ettinger
(Based on writings by Jewish sages)
1. PHARAOH fathered the first attempt of “The Final Solution” – extermination of Jews – succeeded by Haman of Iran, Hitler and currently by Ahminajad.
2. MEMORY/ROOTS, EDUCATION, FAITH, DEFIANCE OF ODDS and LIBERTY are the intertwined fundamentals of Passover. The first three constitute prerequisites for the latter. The Hebrew word for “memory” is ZIKARON, which is composed of two Hebrew words:ZAKH (pure) and RON (hymn). The Hebrew word for “education” is KHINOUKH, whose root is “to inaugurate.” The Hebrew word for “faith” is EMUNAH, whose root is AMEN. The Hebrew word for “liberty” is KHERUT, spelled identically to the word KHARUT, “carved.” In other words, liberty is a G-d given eternal right, carved in stone, independent of human rulers, nurtured by education, never to be taken for granted. A nation which commemorates enslavement and deliverance of 3,600 years ago is destined for a glorious future, while a nation which turns its back on history dooms its future.
3. DAVID BEN-GURION, first Prime Minister of Israel (UN Commission, 1947) highlighted Passover’s focus on the LAND OF ISRAEL and MEMORY: “300 years ago, the Mayflower launched its historical voyage. How many remember the data of the voyage, how many passengers were on the Mayflower and what kind of bread did they consume? However, 3,300 years earlier, the Exodus from Egypt took place. Every Jew knows the date of the Exodus – 15th of the month of Nissan – and the kind of bread – Matza, leaven bread – consumed. Until today, Jews all over the world, tell the story of the Exodus and eat Matza on the 15th of Nissan. They conclude the story of the Exodus [HAGADAH] with the statement: This year we’re slaves, but next year we shall be liberated; this year we’re here, but next year in Jerusalem.” As documented by the chronicles of Passover, the Exodus set the Jewish Nation on the Road Map to a specific site (and not just to liberation), the Land of Israel.
4. PASSOVER = ROLE MODEL OF NATIONAL LIBERATION. Passover – just like monotheism, the Sabbath, Ten Commandments, repentance/Yom Kippur – constitutes a Jewish gift to humanity. Passover has been a global inspiration to LIBERTY and to national liberation (Let My People Go), 600-700 ahead of Greek philosophers, some of whom caused confusion between Liberty with permissiveness. Jews have been targeted by enemies of LIBERTY (from Pharaoh, Nazism, Communism to Arab/Islamic terrorism and Ahminajad), because Jews have been rightly perceived as the originators of LIBERTY.
5. PASSOVER & THE FOUNDATION OF THE UNITES STATES. The Exodus inspired the Puritans, the Pilgrims and the Founding Fathers, who considered themselves “the modern day Israelites”, King George III “the modern day Pharaoh”, the Atlantic “the modern day Red Sea” and America “the modern day Promised Land”. Jefferson, Adams and Franklin considered a proposal for the great seal featuring The Exodus with the inscription: “Rebellion to Tyrants is Obedience to G-D.” The term FEDERALISM is based on “Foedus”, the Latin word for “The Covenant.” The puritans and the Founding Fathers considered themselves to be “the Modern Day People of the Covenant.” John Locke, Roger Williams, Thomas Paine and Simon Howard considered the Laws of Moses and the structure of the 12 Tribes, sustaining semi-independence, governed by Moses, Aharon, Joshua and the 70 person Legislature, a model for the American political system in general and for “Life, Liberty and Pursuit of Happiness” in particular.
6. MOSES, the hero of Passover, has become a role model of leadership and national liberation. The Mosaic legacy has greatly impacted US democracy, hence his marble replica at the House Chamber on Capitol Hill, at the Rayburn House Office
Building’s subway station and at the Supreme Court (holding the Ten Commandments). Moses’ name is mentioned only once in the Passover HAGADAH, as a servant of G-d, a testimony to Moses’ humility (his grave site is purposely unknown). The only compliment accorded to Moses in the Torah is “the humblest of all human beings”.
7. PASSOVER = WAR OF CIVILIZATIONS. Moses’ victory over Pharaoh reflected the victory of HUMILITY over hubris, Truth over lies, CONVICTION/MORALITY over convenience/immorality, SOLIDARITY/COMPASSION over selfishness/cynicism, CONTRIBUTION over abuse, REALISM over wishful-thinking, CONSTITUENT over ruler and LIBERTY OVER TYRANNY. The term Passover (Pesach in Hebrew) referred to the sacrificial lamb, which spared the Jews the 10th plague (death of the elder son), by Passing-Over their homes. Judaism introduced the immorality of human sacrifices. The Hebrew words for Sacrifice are KORBAN (to get closer), OLA (to elevate), MINCHA (to be guided, to relax) and SHLAMIM (wholesomeness).
8. THE EXODUS is mentioned 50 times in the Torah, equal to the 50 years of Jubilee, another historical pivot of LIBERTY (“Proclaim liberty throughout the land to all the inhabitants thereof”, Leviticus, 25, 10, inscribed on the LIBERTY BELL). 50 days following the Exodus, Moses received the Torah, which includes – according to Jewish tradition – 50 Gates of Wisdom. The commemoration of the Exodus (Passover) is one of the 613 Jewish/Mosaic laws. Passover features a few times in each daily prayer, during the welcoming of the Sabbath, during the blessing over wine, on holidays, upon circumcision of sons, at the door step (Mezuzah) of Jewish homes, etc. According to Henry George, a top 19th century economist, who opposed taxation but on land, a student of the Torah and the author of “Moses, The Law Giver”, the Jubilee was Moses’ way of combating monopoly.
9. THE FIRST JEWISH HOLIDAY. Passover has four names: Holiday of Pesach (the sacrifice), Holiday of Liberty, Holiday of Matza and Holiday of Spring. It is the FIRST Jewish holiday, according to the Jewish calendar, which starts in the spring (AVIV in Hebrew, which consists of two words: Father of 12 months), the first stage of natural and national blossoming. Passover – which commemorates the CREATION of the Jewish nation through the 13th century BC Exodus – lasts for 7 days, just like the CREATION of the universe. Passover is the FIRST Jewish pilgrimage and the basis for the other two annual pilgrimages. Thus, the first stop of the Exodus was at Soukkota (Soukkot/Tabernacles is the 3rd pilgrimage), and Passover is the prelude to the receipt of the Torah/Ten Commandments (Shavouot/Pentecost the 2nd pilgrimage).
10. HAGADAH. Passover is launched with the reading of the Hagadah, which documents Jewish history. The Hagadah (based on the Hebrew verb “to tell”) instructs parents to tell their children the story of The Exodus and its implications, thus enhancing MEMORY, a prerequisite to LIBERTY.
11. PASSOVER = OPTIMISM. Passover is celebrated on the 15th day (full moon) of the Jewish month of Nissan, the month of miracles (Nissim in Hebrew – Exodus, Parting of the Sea, manna, Jacob battling the Angel, Abraham victory over the 4 kings, etc.). Nissan (“bud” in Babylon) launches the spring season, a symbol of optimism, freedom and growth, which follows the relatively somber winter Winter is compared to a strait, which restrains the flow of water, but once the strait is over, the water bursts forward in a much more powerful manner (Egypt is MITZRAYIM in Hebrew, a derivative of METZAR, strait in Hebrew). The term spring is mentioned 3 times in the Torah, all in reference to The Exodus.
12. THE TEN PLAGUES aimed at destroying Egyptian spirit, by exposing the vulnerability of their idols. Thus, the plague of blood targeted the idol of the Nile River, the plague of frogs shattered the myth of the idol of fertility (which had a head of a frog), the plague of darkness obliterated the idol of the sun, the plague of the elder sons crashed the supreme idol – the king (son of god), etc.
13. PASSOVER = VICTORY OF JEWISH DEMOGRAPHY. According to Jewish tradition, Jacob arrived to Egypt with 70 Jews and Moses launched the Exodus with 600,000 Jews (some suggest 600,000 adults or 600,000 males) – quite a demographic momentum. The Exodus was the first case of a massive Jewish Aliya (immigration) to Israel. A Jewish Demographic Momentum has currently been in motion between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean. While Herzl launched the Zionist voyage with an 8% Jewish minority west of the Jordan River in 1900, and Ben-Gurion celebrated the 1947 UN vote with a 33% minority, today’s Jewish State is endowed with a 67% majority over 98.7% of the land west of the River (without Gaza). Arab fertility rate has declined systematically in addition to annual net Arab emigration, while Jewish fertility rate creeps upward, bolstered by annual immigration (Aliya) since 1882.