It has not been easy to enjoy our beautiful Pesach festival this year, not simply because of the unusually cold, wet, inclement weather, but mainly because of the daily diet of disturbing, sickening news that left me, for one, despondent, disheartened and dismayed. The horrific loss of life in Sri Lanka with the terror attacks on the churches and worshippers; the anti-Semitic beatings of the Judas-Jewish effigy in Poland; the attacks on Chabad in Nairobi and on the Chabad Synagogue in San Diego; the tragic deaths of Israeli children and cyclists in motor accidents. These tragic and shocking events brought to us daily on radio and TV left one reeling and even more deeply concerned about the uneasy state of the world we live in and of humanity as a whole. One could easily turn off the radio and not be exposed to this ceaseless flood of grim tidings, and instead regale ourselves with all the beauty of the Passover celebration with its treasury of customs and prayers thanking Hashem for our deliverance from bondage in Egypt and our journey through history to the point we have reached to become one of the world’s leading states, indeed a world power and powerhouse of innovation. We could so easily cut ourselves adrift from the rest of humanity during these spiritually elevating seven days munching on Matzot and other Pesach delicacies. But then we abruptly recall that these Matzot are also the bread of affliction and that our current freedom and prosperity were achieved at great cost and sacrifice over the centuries of unspeakably cruel exile culminating in the greatest tragedy of Jewish and world history – the Holocaust.
The terrifying Sri Lanka bombings were apparently Moslem acts of revenge and reprisal for the horrific slaughter of praying Moslems in a mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand, by a white supremacist, a few weeks ago. Just a few months ago, in October, the Jewish world was also left in a state of shock and disbelief by the slaying of innocent congregants in the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. All of these terrible acts were motivated by feelings of hate and revenge, and we Jews, thank G-d, are not motivated by feelings of hatred and revenge, although we have more than ample reason to be so due to centuries and generations of anti-Semitism, pogroms and victimization. But somehow, amazingly, we have outgrown such base instincts and attitudes and instead seek peace, progress and human brotherhood on earth. I think that this is the main message of Judaism and the Jewish way of life, and it is reflected impressively in our prayers, our customs and our festivals.
Perhaps that is why as a Jew in Israel during the joy and thanking G-d for our deliverance of Pesach I find myself so deeply affected and distressed by all that is happening in the world around us. Pesach is a time when Jews everywhere are able to enjoy and appreciate the beauty of nature in G-d’s world and particularly to be able and privileged to do so in the unprecedented freedom and democracy that is the State of Israel today, which despite its flaws has become a model for the rest of the world.
Why then does so much of our world continue to be a raging sea of bitterness, hatred, threat and bloodshed, instead of the good and pleasant earth that millions of good ordinary folk wish it to be and pray for seemingly in vain. It seems that the quest for power and supremacy of man over his brother, of nation over nation, despite the thousands of years of human suffering, still dominate in our modern world and that the grim message of history continues to be ignored by the world’s leaders who are power-blinded and could so easily lead this world to destruction and an end to humanity and humankind.
What this world really needs is an unprecedented cleaning, along the lines of our Pesach cleaning, to rid the world of all the accumulated poison, pollution and filth of untold centuries of bloodshed, hatred, anti-Semitism, subjugation, wars and conflicts, and last but perhaps the worst of them all – the deadly and ever-increasing repositories of bombs and rockets that in the wrong hands can so swiftly and easily put an end to all life on earth.
So finally, on this peaceful and joyous Pesach in the Promised Land, let us together utter a special prayer not for Jews alone but for human beings everywhere: “Let peace reign at long last the length and breadth of this splintered, fractured, endlessly bloodied and besmirched piece of the universe, may the leaders of all the nations join hands in peaceful cooperation, and may the radios of humanity in a hundred tongues every newborn day blare out the sublime news of peace, prosperity and human brotherhood everywhere on G-d’s Earth.”
Finally let’s end with a Ben Reuven song with a message of peace for all humanity called Hands Across The Mountains:
David Herman, a very ordinary Jew and human being, Jerusalem, Pesach, 2019