Thursday, April 9, 2015

Don’t forget what Pesach is about

Most Jews will tell you what Pesach (Passover) is about (besides matza). It’s about freedom.

We refer in our prayers to Pesach as the “Time of our Freedom” (z’man herutai-nu). We begin the story of our exodus in the Haggadah (after the Four Questions) with a reference to how we were slaves in Egypt.

Pesach is the story of our moment of freedom.

Actually, it’s also about something else. Our Heritage (Tractate Sanhedrin, p 111a) reminds us that Pesach is also about nationhood and Israel.

We need Pesach. We need to remember that Jews are a nation. We need to remember that Israel is Jewish.

We need to remember these two ideas because of the PLO Charter. We need Pesach because of that Charter.

The Gemara (Tractate) of Sanhedrin tells us that the Torah writes, “And I shall take you unto me as a people [nation]” (Sh’mot 6:7). In the very next posuk (sentence) the Torah says, “And I shall bring you to the land [of Israel]” (ibid, 6:8). Therefore, the Gemara says, by placing these two sentences together, the Torah connects the Jews’ exodus from Egypt to their [becoming a distinct nation and to their] coming to the land of Israel.

It’s a short piece of Gemara. But it resonates with us today. This Gemara reminds us that Jews are not simply citizens of the country they inhabit. Jews are the Jewish nation.

This Gemara also reminds us that Israel is the land that G-d gifted to the Jewish people. It’s the place G-d declared to be the Jewish homeland.

These words were handed down at Sinai and then written down app 300 years before Islam. They represent who we are. They tell us that Jews are one people, an independent nation with a distinctive national ‘personality’. They tell us that Israel is the state of the Jewish people.

The PLO Charter says otherwise. It says that the borders of the British Mandate (i.e., modern Israel) are the boundaries of ‘Palestine’ (Article Two). ‘Palestine’ is a homeland, all right. But it’s not the homeland of the Jews. It’s the homeland of the Palestinian Arab people (Article One).

According to the Charter, “the Jews are not one people with an independent personality. They are rather citizens of the states to which they belong” (Article 20).

Put another way, The PLO Charter—the foundation of the ‘Palestinian Cause’--claims that the Jewish people are not a nation. The Torah says otherwise.

The Charter also claims that Israel is not the homeland of the Jewish people. The Torah says otherwise.

This difference means that, when you go to the Pesach seder, you can take the opportunity to think about the Jewish nation, G-d’s Promise to that nation and today’s Jewish state. At the seder, you can decide whose words to believe—the words of the 3,000+ year-old Torah, or the words of the 40+ year-old PLO Charter.

Your choice determines what you believe about Israel. Your choice also determines what you believe about G-d.

That choice means the Arab-Israel conflict is really about G-d. It’s about G-d’s Promises to the Jews. It’s about how Arabs—and too many Jews--reject those G-dly Promises even as they come true before our eyes.

Perhaps that’s why you go to a Pesach seder. You go to hear the story of how the Jewish nation was born. You go to remind yourself what choice to make in a world filled with the Israel-denying narrative of the ‘Palestinian Cause’.

That’s why Pesach (Passover) is so important. It reminds us of the basics. It reminds us that Jews are a distinct nation. It reminds us that Israel is our land for our nation.

Our written code (the Torah) says it. Our Oral code (the Gemara) confirms it. Our very existence as a modern sovereign state proves it: Israel is our homeland, Promised by G-d thousands of years ago to us, the Jewish nation.

Don’t forget Pesach. Don’t reject who you are.

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