This is the beginning of the start of the Jewish month of Adar and within the next 100 days we will celebrate and commemorate by my count 5 Jewish festivals and memorial days … I spent some time reflecting on them this morning and after a few moments dreading them (how can we celebrate at such a time), I realized that they should give us a message of hope. I will leave it to Mark Twain to make my case, but the bottom line is that we have been in this situation before…too many times…and with hard work, faith, hope and G-d’s guiding hand we have seen off our enemies.
Mark Twain said it best, and I quote the whole of his statement because of its relevance, when he reflected in 1897:
“If the statistics are right, the Jews constitute but one quarter of one percent of the human race. It suggests a nebulous puff of star dust lost in the blaze of the Milky Way. Properly, the Jew ought hardly to be heard of, but he is heard of, has always been heard of. He is as prominent on the planet as any other people, and his importance is extravagantly out of proportion to the smallness of his bulk.
His contributions to the world’s list of great names in literature, science, art, music, finance, medicine and abstruse learning are also very out of proportion to the weakness of his numbers. He has made a marvelous fight in this world in all ages; and has done it with his hands tied behind him. He could be vain of himself and be excused for it. The Egyptians, the Babylonians and the Persians rose, filled the planet with sound and splendor, then faded to dream-stuff and passed away; the Greeks and Romans followed and made a vast noise, and they were gone; other people have sprung up and held their torch high for a time but it burned out, and they sit in twilight now, and have vanished.
The Jew saw them all, survived them all, and is now what he always was, exhibiting no decadence, no infirmaties, of age, no weakening of his parts, no slowing of his energies, no dulling of his alert but aggressive mind. All things are mortal but the Jews; all other forces pass, but he remains. What is the secret of his immortality? ”
We start this coming period with Purim, Pesach, followed by three newer days – Yom Ha’Shoa, Yom Ha’Zikaron and Yom Ha’atzmuot.
Each has a message of major significance for us today – certainly more than in the rest of my 48 years – and each will be poignant and perhaps very raw and difficult this year but each is an opportunity to take hope from history and to remind ourselves that we can and will come through this extremely difficult period.
On Purim we remember what is possibly one of the two clearest stories of the danger of pure antisemitism at a period of time when we thought it was behind us and that through a combination of unity in adversity, personal bravery and G-d’s guiding hand we defeated it.
On Pesach (Passover) we talk about how we were then Pesach where we say loud and clear that “We were once slaves, now we are free”. I pray our captives are released tonight but I pray that our freedom all those years ago is the same for those who are today captured.
On the three newly instituted days, we chart our recent history – the terror of the holocaust of which the 7th October shows how our times are not immune from the same happening again, the sacrifice of our soldiers, security forces and victims of terror who have laid down their lives in service to the state, which of course our brave soldiers have again shown, and of course the celebration of the Independence of Israel, of whose protection we are again fighting for.
Perhaps more than the individual message of each is the combined story they tell of our history – and perhaps answer Mark Twain’s question… we have been through the most terrible times where our nation is down but not out…we rebuild, regenerate and remain people of faith and hope.