Thursday, April 8, 2010

Seder Night in Mitzpe Ramon - We Were Personally Delivered from Egypt

This was a distinguished Seder for us for a number of reasons. It was our first in Israel; it was the first single Seder in our lives; and it was the first Seder away from family and friends in the US. In anticipation, having only a single Seder seemed like doing the high wire act without a net - no second chances. We could always answer the question, "Did you get out of Egypt," with the promising, "Not yet, but tomorrow night!" But in Israel - there would be no tomorrow night. One Seder - then finished.

As it turned out -- we got out of Egypt. Having only a single Seder concentrates the mind wonderfully, and you don't have to worry about what you're going to say or do on a second night that's different from the first. ("Why is this second night different from all others?")

We usually went to my brother and his family in St. Louis for our Seders. In addition to the 10 of our immediate families there would also be many guests, making the Seder a large and lively affair. We were originally going to just be the five of our immediate family, Pam and I, Chavie, Donny and Yair, but Rabbi Slonim, the Chabad shaliach in Mitzpe Ramon, asked us to take an elderly Russian couple. At first I feared that they only spoke Russian, which would have made a Seder with them a bit weird, since the telling of the Seder story and its commentary is the central part of the night. But as it turned out they also spoke pretty good Hebrew, so Chavie was able to act as translator.

I would say that the theme of our Seder was "In every generation each individual is obliged to see himself or herself as if s/he personally were delivered from Egypt."  This goes hand-in-hand with the Hagaddah proclamation that "In every generation they rise up against us to destroy us." When I was young I thought that this was an unwarrantedly negative perspective, but as I got older I realized that the western world, having slaked itself on Jewish blood during the Holocaust, was simply taking an after dinner nap, waiting to be roused and drink again.

Of course, for those in other lands, the blood lust never ended. Our guests were from Russia, and they had been delivered from Communism when coming to Israel. And we had already met other Indian, Ethiopian, Iraqi, Iranian, and Yemenite Jews who were spirited away to safety in Israel. But Theodore Herzl could never have imagined that the promised land he reimagined as a security for the despised Jews of other lands would itself come to be treated as a pariah state by the other nations of the world, who longed to destroy it or would stand silently by while others did, heaping the most odious calumnies on it that would make the blood libels of Europe seem tame by comparison.

It will forever be a blot on the conscience of the world that 62 years after the Holocaust, we live with gas-proof bomb shelters outside our door for protection from our enemies.

As we went around our Seder table we saw how each of us had been delivered from Pharaoh's Egypt: Our Russian guests from Communist/Stalinist bondage; we from the wage slavery of consumer capitalism and the physical and spiritual Galut outside of Israel; and our Children and Grandchild starting a new life in a new Jewish land, the land that G-d had promised to our ancestors in an unbroken line from even before that first Seder 3300 years ago. But nothing happens unless we do something first.

Rabbi Stewart Weiss, who led our Pesach tour group at the Orchid Hotel spoke apropos this theme at one of his Divrei Torah --- Moshe told the Children of Israel as they wailed in fear at the Red Sea seven days after that first Seder, Stand still, be quiet, and see the deliverance of the L-rd, for He shall fight for you. But Moshe over promised. Immediately afterward, G-d reprimands Moshe saying, Why do you cry out to me? I can not fight for you by myself. You must join and be my partner. Tell the Children of Israel to move forward, (which only Nachshon ben Aminadav did), and the sea did not split until then. We cannot stand by and wait for G-d to fight for us. Moshe did over promise. We must take action with His help. The Land Of Israel will not be redeemed and Moshiach will not come by our standing quietly waiting where we are for Eretz Yisrael to be given to us. We must move forward to join the battle with G-d to redeem our Land and bring Moshiach, now and in our time.

1 comment:

  1. Ira, I think youre getting the hang of this blog thing. Very well written and 100% spot on. Its amazing being in the melting pot of the world "New York" and realising that Israel is the true melting pot. A really good soup is where all the ingredients blend toghether as they did in your Seder and in Israel as a whole. Wheras over here there might be people from all over but they all keep to themselves.


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