Hope meets History
Twenty-five years ago Saddam Hussein sought to shatter the coalition amassed against him by triggering Israel’s entry into the Gulf War. Twisted logic suggested that Arab hatred for Israel would undermine coalition alignment. In the end, his terrorizing scud attacks against the Jewish State failed to achieve their goal.
Now a quarter-century later, this Passover presents a glimpse of how hope can meet history. Today common strategic interests and ferocious new adversaries find many Arab States cooperating militarily with Israel. Moreover, Israel’s existence is no longer seen as the primary cause of regional destabilization and bloodshed. Indeed despite disapproval for Israel’s handling of the plight of Palestinians, the Nation State of the Jewish People is now widely valued as a force for regional stability.
It is one thing to take note of historic change, but how are we to live in ways that encourage its progress? By being wakeful of timing and watchful of minutia. Ironically, the telescope is aided by the microscope.
In last weekend’s New York Times, Dan Barber commended the meticulous timing and precision required in the preparation of sh’mura matzah. “At the end of this hot, grueling day, he (the rabbi) didn’t ease into the last few minutes of the harvest. If anything, he looked closer, examining the spelt so carefully, so faithfully, he might have been reading ancient scrolls.” Such close inspections now help harvesters observe things that used to go unnoticed. The farmer concluded, “Mindfulness is a part of all my work now, and it benefits just about everything I grow.” Perhaps even how he himself grows.
The sages were also connoisseurs of time and timing. This is illustrated by a story contained within the Seder’’s broader story. Five sages gather in the town of Bnei Brak, immersed all night long in discussing the timing of the Exodus storytelling. Yet what they are actually discussing is not the Seder but rather the Shema, the final passage of which mentions the Exodus. Their discourse about the timing of the evening Shema extends until the arrival of the morning Shema. Hope may reside in the future, but it dances in present moments that stir souls and quicken hearts.
Israel today is a country and combines prosperity with liberty. She yearns for more regional companionship in this regard. As we look to the next quarter century, may we be hope’s cosponsors. Shimon Peres likes to say, “Optimists and pessimists both die the same way, but they live very differently.”
The Seder is our salute to hope. May we follow this seasons gathering with actions that continue to prove that hope works.