JWR Outlook

Jewish World Review April 2, 2002 / 20 Nisan, 5762

Passover offers hope to each generation

By Don Feder

http://www.jewishworldreview.com | In a world of tragedy and terror, suffering and fear -- Passover's message is a life-preserver for the soul: G-d is here. He cares. Though the wicked may flourish for a day, ultimately evil will be vanquished.

In the Bible, Passover is known simply as the Festival of Matzah. More commonly, it's thought of as a celebration of freedom -- the slaves were freed, became a nation and received a warranty deed to their holy land.

But freedom can be abused. While Moses was on the mountain, the Israelites used their newfound freedom to fashion a golden calf. Passover's essence isn't freedom, but faith.

Faith -- such a simple word, yet so difficult to acquire.

Imagine that your people have been slaves for 210 years -- generations living and dying in misery, without a present or a future.

Then along comes a man with a message of hope: G-d will rescue them; he will lead them forth from sorrow to joy. They are told to have faith that Pharaoh will let them go.

On faith alone, they are to leave their homes and journey into a desolate wilderness. And yet, with faith they went forth to shape the course of history.

Fast forward a few millennia. After 2,000 years of exile culminating in a holocaust in which a third of them were murdered worldwide, the descendants of these slaves are again possessed of the land promised to their ancestors.

But now, after a half-century of national renewal, they are poised on the edge of extinction. The pharaohs of the international community condemn them. In the Middle East, 280 million "neighbors" clamor for their blood. America, once their staunchest ally and a nation founded on their Bible, is seemingly indifferent to their fate.

Almost every day, their children die in a hail of shrapnel or bullets. They are told that peace will come only if they cede Biblical Israel (Joshua did not lead the Israelites to Tel Aviv) to their murderers, giving themselves borders that invite annihilation.

How easy is faith in such circumstances?

Except for children and the childlike, has faith ever been simple? Was it easy in Auschwitz? Is it easy for the person dying of cancer, or the family that's lost a child to drugs or alcohol?

The rational mind tells us it's hopeless.

All the evidence leads inexorably to the inescapable conclusion that the world is wretched and getting worse. We live in times when a mother methodically drowns her five children, a couple that kept vicious dogs denies responsibility for the mauling death of a neighbor, and all around us the culture celebrates slaughter, sadism and raw sex.

Still, Passover demands that we have faith.

Abraham, who's remembered at the Passover Seder, was known as the man of faith. (His was tested at the binding of Isaac.) At Sinai, the first of the Ten Commandments enjoins, "I am the L-rd, your G-d, who took you out of the land of Egypt." This isn't a declaration, but a command -- believe that this is so. Future generations, who did not experience the redemption firsthand, are to take it on faith.

All of the great Bible stories are about faith. Joshua is asked to have faith that a trumpet's blast will bring down the walls of Jericho. David, a fugitive hunted by Saul, was expected to have faith that G-d would save him.

America was founded on faith.

The Declaration of Independence confessed a "firm reliance on the protection of divine providence." Our forefathers had faith that their just cause would overcome apparently hopeless odds. Another Abraham had faith that G-d would preserve the Union and allow him to fulfill the Declaration's promise of universal equality.

Like a shaft of light cutting across the ages, Passover offers the same hope to each succeeding generation -- that in our darkest hour, amidst unspeakable suffering, with despair tugging at our sleeves, redemption will come. For without hope, we truly are slaves -- slaves to the here and now, slaves to our fears, slaves to the melancholy that besets us at every turn.

Comment on JWR contributor Don Feder's column by clicking here.


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