Avi Benlolo
Avi Abraham Benlolo, Founder & Chairman, The Abraham Global Peace Initiative (AGPI)

Passover A Test of Faith & Action

L-R Avi Abraham Benlolo with Imam Mohammed Tawhidi

Holocaust Survivor Elie Wiesel expressed that he loves Passover because for him, “it is a cry against indifference, a cry for compassion.” Truer words could not have been said in this broken world.

What we need is more kindness and compassion. Passover is a story that reminds us that we too were refugees more than once throughout the generations. That from time immemorial, on many occasions, we sought asylum, safety and most significantly, freedom. This is why Israel was the first country to set up a field hospital for Ukrainian refugees and why Jewish philanthropists have poured billions of dollars to ease their horrific burden. We are the torch-bearers of the ancient past, taught to never turn away, close our eyes to the plight of others.

That is our burden and we should never relinquish the commandments that have made us a light unto the nations. To truly free ourselves from bondage, our lives must include the age-old tradition of “Tikkun Olam” – repair of the world.

In doing so, one of my favorite quotes about Passover comes from Yaacov Cohen who said that the best way to teach your children about freedom is to teach them “not to look at reality as defining their acts but to looked at their acts as defining reality.”

Rabbi Nacman of Beslov argued that the “exodus from Egypt occurs in every human being, in every era, in every year and in every day.” It is our universal metaphysical path to rise above the physical bondage that often incapacitates us. We must understand our universal obligation to remember our oppression and strive to make the world around us better. As Maya Angelo surmised, “none of us can be free unless all of us are free”.

If we are to remain safe and secure, we must reach out and invite others into our tent. This week, after two years of COVID-lockdown, I had the pleasure of reunited with “my brother from another mother”, Imam Mohammed Tawhidi, “the Imam of Peace” and Vice President of the Global Imams Council. Together we will continue to advance our mutual global strategy to make the world a better place.

We are commanded to remember to never “oppress the stranger for we were once strangers in the land of Egypt”. Despite the fact that throughout the ages (and even now) our neighbors weaponized Antisemitism to treat us like “strangers” – we are obligated to rise above this hatred and extend a compassionate hand to those in need around us. The truest method of turning our “affliction into freedom” said Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks is to share our food by inviting others to join our Seder table.

Repair of the world obligates us to take action and bring light into darkness. The story of Exodus demonstrates how after centuries of enslavement, the Jewish people rose up and took action to defeat their oppression. Sometimes, when there is no other way, the battle for freedom from tyranny requires a direct-confrontation. To this vital lesson, Martin Luther King Jr. said, “freedom is not given voluntarily from the oppressor, it must be demanded by the oppressed.”

Passover is not only our test of faith, it’s our test of action. It requires us to educate our children and advocate for freedom. It demands that we understand that Antisemitism and hatred of the “other” or of the “stranger” is the root cause of our historical trials and tribulations. It forces us to speak out and take action for those who are oppressed and cannot. It commands us to feed the hungry, give a place at our table to the needy and elderly. Most significantly, it calls for us to become righteous, compassionate and kind. These are big asks. But it’s up to each one of us to protect our past and defend our future because freedom is never guaranteed.

Wishing you and yours a Shabbat Shalom and Chag Sameach – Avi

About the Author
Avi Abraham Benlolo is the Founder and Chairman of The Abraham Global Peace Initiative (AGPI) He has been described as the nation's most prominent and noted expert in Holocaust studies, in countering Antisemitism and promoting human rights.
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