The scene is familiar even though the actors are different. Jews are rounded up, herded into confined areas, given minimal nutrition and forced to work under the watchful eye of taskmasters, who brutally oppress them.
The inception of the tragic scenario began in Egypt with our forefathers approximately 3000 years ago. It was experienced once again by my own parents and millions of others in concentration camps.
Despite this and other countless travails, the Jewish people have endured. Our people have survived expulsions, exile, massacres, pogroms and the Shoah. We have miraculously and proudly established a Jewish state in the land of Israel, which currently plays host to almost half of the world Jewish population. There are countless synagogues and Jewish schools throughout the country, supported by the Israeli government, which service a vibrant community. Jewish doctors, lawyers and other professionals abound. There are Jewish hospitals, financial institutions and yes, a Jewish army! We have witnessed in modern times the greatest destruction and greatest “rebirth” of the Jewish community – a miracle before our eyes!
It is important to note that the parallels between our slavery in Egypt and the horrific events of the Holocaust transcend that of suffering and death. Amazingly, in both cases where all hope was lost, redemption sprang forth. The Rambam actually says that we begin the Seder with the phrase, Bi’bhilu Yatzanu miMitzrayim,” meaning we left Egypt in confusion due to haste. In other words, one could not anticipate the sudden turn of events. When things were bleak and presumably hopeless, the Jews were liberated from Egypt, and more recently, allied troops liberated the camps. Any survivor will unhesitatingly say that their redemption was a miracle!
Currently our community suffers from the world-wide pandemic of the Coronavirus. Virtually all are gripped with fear, trepidation and angst – over concern for ourselves, our loved ones and other people we know who have contracted the virus.
It is easy to despair, just as undoubtedly many in the previous generations did. But we also must look beyond the despair and recognize that in our history, redemption comes suddenly and unexpectedly! We actually affirm this truism in the Haggadah which we will soon read on Passover. We will recount the theme that just like Hashem saved us and redeemed us in the past… so too will Hashem grant us reprieve and redemption in the future.
Passover is the holiday of hope. In the words of my father, of blessed memory, “Never give up!”