Passover in Europe

In recent years, numerous Passover programs have been popping up all over Europe. One can celebrate the Holiday of Matzot in places like Spain, Portugal, Italy, and even Croatia, just to name a few. The highest standard of Kashrut, (dietary laws) are provided, along with entertainment and interesting excursions. Those living in Israel justify this experience because they want to see Europe, and often prices are cheaper than Israeli programs.

Nevertheless, inevitably, there will be friends who will try to put the guilt on those leaving Israel. They might say things like, “Did you forget, ‘Next year in Jerusalem’, or “Isn’t there a commandment to make pilgrimage to Jerusalem on the festivals? How could you leave!” Admittedly, I have been guilty of these accusations, but I have come up with a viable explanation of this Pesach phenomena, as a result of the recent fire in Notre Dame.

While on the one hand, we are taught to be respectful and tolerant of other religions, we are not expected to forget the lessons of history. Maimonides, in his classic work, Mishne Torah, writes about Christianity and Islam. He felt that it is better for Gentiles to worship these religions, rather than no religion at all. Such religious observance, although totally false, will enable its worshippers to be aware of the concept of Messiah. When the true Messiah comes, they will more readily adjust to the idea more than a pagan or non-believer. (This particular section is still censored in most editions of Mishne Torah.) Therefore, we can commiserate with the pain felt at seeing such a structure go up in flames as Notre Dame.

But, on the other hand, we must never forget how much Jews suffered in the name of Christianity. Notre Dame was one of many Christian sites that clearly mocked the Jews for having been rejected by G-d. This so called rejection motivated the masses to ridicule, torture, and murder thousands of Jews. This is also the justification for burning thousands of hand written Jewish holy books. A basic Christian doctrine, that was also held by the Muslims, is that G-d once loved the Jews, but because of their sins, He rejected them forever. Instead, He chose the Christians or Muslims.

The State of Israel has torn apart this rejectionist theory. With a return of the exiles and over six and a half million Jews, and a powerful army, the rebirth of the Hebrew language, numerous modern cities, leading the world in high tech, and the list goes on, does not make us look very rejected. And most impressive of all, is the intense study of Torah that we have not witnessed in two thousand years. No one in his right mind could possibly look at the Jewish people as being rejected.

The Passover programs in Europe are in places that were guilty of such persecution of Jews. In some of these places, Jews were even expelled. Yet, we come to the twenty first century, and Jews come with their money to celebrate this Holiday of Freedom, in the same places where they tried to take away their freedom. Perhaps my true blue Zionist friends will see this as a rationalization, and to some extent it is, but there is some truth to this as well. Is it not ironic that these same locations where its citizens mocked us and looked down on us, now serve us hand and foot? With all of the Christian gloating, could they ever have foreseen the day when they would be doing everything possible to please prosperous Jews on their holiday.

Far be it from me to try to understand G-d’s plan for the Redemption. Events of the last seventy one years, clearly point to great and miraculous events. One of the final signs of this Redemption, is the end of the Exile. In Leviticus 26:38, the Torah predicts that a time will come when, “You will perish among the nations. And the land of your enemies, will devour you.” Many see this verse as referring to the times we are living in. Assimilation and intermarriage has decimated our numbers in the Diaspora, and it won’t be long before the majority of the Jews in the world, will be living in Israel. Anti-Semitic acts such as those seen in San Diego and Pittsburgh, are wake up calls that it’s time for Jews to come home. A viable future for the Jews is only in Israel. This is how it was predicted and this is what is happening.

In the meantime, we have one bit of unfinished business to take care of. We must set the record straight in Europe. Jews are not rejected. We have survived all efforts to destroy us. You, Europeans, can see for yourselves, when you see how G-d has blessed the Jews. Look at how they observe their Holiday of Freedom in your cities. The Jews are the chosen people and G-d’s love for them endures. He is rebuilding the House of Israel exactly as He said He would. Open your eyes and see that Israel truly is, “A light to all the nations.”

About the Author
Rabbi Cohen has been a Torah instructor at Machon Meir, Jerusalem, for nearly twenty years. He has been teaching a Talmud class in the Shtieblach, Old Katamon, Jerusalem, for the past twelve years. Before coming to Israel, he was the founding rabbi of Young Israel of Century City, Los Angeles.
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