Since there is so much attention being paid to Jews and Israel and so much misinformation, I would like to share my own reflections regarding the Jewish message to the world, in the present day, that is personified in the Passover story. I am relying on my experience and education as a Jew, born in Europe after the Shoa/Holocaust. I grew up from the age of five years in Canada, and lived in Israel as a student at the Hebrew University, many years ago and then in the US. More recently over the last year, I have been living in Israel while studying at a Women’s Jewish studies program called Shviti in the Holy city, of Jerusalem.
The Jewish calendar is an education in itself: And living in Israel one gets to experience it as a living thing. So our school is on recess for the month of Nissan, the month of Passover to allow both students and teachers to fulfill the obligations of Passover towards, self, family and community. And this goes on in the whole country. As preparation for Pesach, some people seek to examine their personal state of servitude, their personal slavery, and explore how to be released from it. But as much as Pesach can be a personal stocktaking, it is also very much a communal endeavor. From the beginning of the month of Nissan, the month of the Pesach, every Jewish person and Jewish community begins preparations for the holiday, by 1. cleaning and getting rid of leavened bread and leavened bread products from every personal habitation – home workplace community center, and 2. by studying the story of the exodus from Egypt and preparing for the seder night by studying the Torah portions pertaining to the exodus story and also reviewing the mitzvot/obigations – What to do and what not to do during this period – in order to be able to have a fulfilling and “kosher” Pesach with family and friends. During this month we greet each other with the Hebrew words, “hag kasher vesameach” – May you have a kosher and joyous hag.
My own family history is intimately connected to the Exodus story – a going out from slavery to freedom. When I was three years old and my dear sister Anita, was only one year old, my mother and her brother Tibi, set out from the seder table in Tokay, Hungary, to cross the border by foot during the night from Hungary into Czechoslovakia, and from there to Vienna, Austria, gateway to the free world of the West at the time. They succeeded with the Grace of G-d, and that is why I am here today to tell the tale. This is my story, but it is also the story of all of the Jewish people as it says in the Haggada – the prescribed book which details all of the story and traditions practiced at the seder table on the Eve of Peasach – and which begins the story as follows:
- “We were slaves to Pharaoh in Egypt, and the L-rd, our G‑d, took us out from there with a strong hand and with an outstretched arm. If the Holy One, blessed be He, had not taken our fathers out of Egypt, then we, our children and our children’s children would have remained enslaved to Pharaoh in Egypt.”
The Voice of the Hagadda continues: “This is the bread of affliction that our fathers ate in the land of Egypt. Whoever is hungry, let him come and eat; whoever is in need, let him come and conduct the Seder of Passover.”
And this is very much a commandment to be observed everywhere and anywhere where Jews live: Everyone in the community, in Israel and anywhere in the world, needs to be provided for, both for the seder and for the holiday, with matzoh and all of the accompaniments by and with the community. This is a major endeavor to provide for everyone with plenty. In Israel Leket is an organization dedicated to collecting food and distributing it to the needy, all year round, and especially on Passover. It relies on volunteers and donations. “Leket” is a Hebrew word from the Torah. It refers to a practice prescribed by our Torah of leaving the corners of the agricultural fields to be harvested by whoever wants to or need to do so – so there can be no one who goes hungry in the land of Israel when it is run according to Torah principles. In addition to major organizations like Lekket in israel, every Rabbi and congregation will have its own private collections for providing for those in need in their particular community. Passover is expensive and it tests our relationship with material things. In the same way that G-d “took us out of Egypt” and provided for us in the dessert, we trust that he provides for us today and every day to come with abundance and compassion.
- And this is from Leket’s home page:
Rescuing nutritious surplus food for those in need15,500Tons of Fruits & Vegetables2,200,000Hot Meals47,000Volunteers175,000Recipients
The high quality food that we receive from Leket Israel raises the self-esteem and self-confidence of those in recovery. It makes the residents feel that they are worth something.