Ma Nishtana? The Story Continues

Maybe I can be forgiven for the troubled state in which I experienced the Seder (two of them actually!) this year. How could we possibly celebrate freedom this Passover when we have over 100 of our brothers and sisters held captive and tortured in Hamas dungeons? How can we celebrate redemption while contemplating the barbaric massacre and while mourning for so many fallen and injured soldiers and civilians alike? How can we celebrate returning home when tens of thousands of evacuees cannot return to their homes? How can we celebrate the very essence of our heritage amidst this increasingly threatening tsunami of global antisemitic virulence and violence?

Coincidently- or perhaps not- the eve of Pesach in 1943 was a Monday as it was for all of us in 2024. What connects the two?

On that fateful day in 1943 a disparate and desperate band of Jewish men and woman across the entire religious spectrum united for the fight of lives and in many cases for the final fight of their lives. In the early morning the remnants of the Warsaw Ghetto Jews courageously fired the first salvo at the Nazi stormtroopers who had come to liquidate the Ghetto and its Jewish inhabitants once and for all. With no assistance coming from an uncaring world and thus with barely any weapons and ammunition at their disposal they somehow held off the mightiest army on the planet at that time for the better part of a month. They fought heroically against impossible odds. They valiantly resisted while anticipating their inevitable demise. However, nothing would deter them from fighting on to enable perhaps a single Jew to survive to continue to tell the Jewish story.

Eighty years later October 7, 2023 -Shabbat and Simchat Torah- Jews of all stripes without orders or tzav 8- military and civilian personnel alike – react to the latest pogrom against our people and rush to southern Israel as soon as they realize that something untoward is unfolding there. They left their homes and families, some for the last time, in order to save fellow Jews that they did not know from the rampaging hordes of blood thirsty terrorists. Another heroic mission against daunting odds undertaken to preserve the Jewish story.

Clearly being Jewish is not just a religious persuasion but is an all-encompassing identity in which the sparks of our eternal light penetrate the circumstantial darkness we are confronted with at this time. While much of the more recent heroism is yet to be recorded in the annals of our history it becomes clearer through the prism of selfless actions that we have the responsibility to continue to recount the ongoing Jewish story. The imperative of safeguarding our heritage and legacy is once again at the forefront of our collective consciousness. All around Israel our enemies attack us and all around the world our precious values are trampled upon by purveyors of antisemitic hatred who, unlike us when we peacefully demonstrate in support of Israel, exploit every opportunity to pour forth their vile bile upon any Jew anywhere at any time.

The Egyptians, Romans, Greeks, Spaniards, Russians Nazis and others did not prevail over us and nor will Hamas, Hezbollah, Houthis or Iran for that matter. We have endured and outlasted every evil empire and we will be there looking after each other when this current extremist empire of Amalek is toppled for unlike them, we venerate life. Our doctrine of Jewish law can be broken by rabbinic decree to save a life. Such is our regard for life that remarkably Israeli doctors refused to heed the calls of those who said not to treat the wounded terrorists.

We seek deterrence rather than revenge and peace rather than conflict but being the people of abiding memory, we enact the events of over 3000 years ago in Seder night storytelling. The onus is on us now to forever remember what ocurred a little more than 200 days ago and since then. We do this also by way of recounting to future generations the story of what happened in the here and now – how our people coalesced to ensure that there is still a story to be told- the Jewish story: eternal and glorious.

So, what has not changed is that in every generation they rise up to destroy us as we read in the Haggadah. What has changed is our perception of who and where we are because a year ago, we could not possibly have envisioned the tragedies that have befallen our people in the interim period. Then again how inspired we have been during these dark times by the light of the ‘Tik Tok’ generation that rushed back to their military bases from all over Israel and indeed from all over the world. Devoting themselves so tirelessly and courageously to the defense of Israel and Jews everywhere every one of those uniformed heroes ensures that the Jewish story continues.

While the evil intentions of our implacable enemies have not changed, we have changed in terms of our desire and ability to stand shoulder to shoulder with our fellow Jews for the betterment of us all and for a better world where young Jewish children can run free in their local parks and playgrounds without fear and ultimately become yet another link in the indestructible chain of our continuity so that they too will proudly tell our story.

Seemingly the more things change the more they stay the same, but we retain the hope, the dream, the aspiration of being next year in Jerusalem! Next year in a joyful, unified and peaceful Israel with all our hostages and soldiers safely back at our Seder table. And thus, the story continues.

About the Author
Spent most of my professional career in financial services but for some years now I have been a freelance writer and photographer with a keen interest in and love for Israel. Additionally I have been very involved in civic community relations.
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