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A Passover Thought
by Larry Domnitch
Passover is a most appropriate time to ask how we Jews can alter the course of history.
From their suffering, the Israelites beseeched the Almighty's intervention, "And it was during those days that the king of Egypt died, and the Children of Israel groaned because of the work and they cried out. Their outcry because of their work went up to the Almighty." (Exodus 20:23) Following the death of the Pharaoh, from their servitude, their prayers ascended to the Almighty. Why? Had they not prayed before from their subjugation? Rashi commenting on this verse states, "Israel was in need of salvation."
Perhaps, in the past, the Israelites prayed for an improvement of their plight in the hope that their suffering will subside; that there would be a lightening of their bitter load. When Pharaoh died and yet the persecution continued, then they fully realized that the source of their troubles was not with the prior Pharaoh alone, but with Egypt and most importantly their existence in the Galut-exile. When they came to this understanding, then they prayed not to be rid of a king, but to be rid of their existence in Egypt, and hence, for redemption. Then, as the sentence states, their prayers ascended to the Almighty.
After the death of Tsar Nicholas II at the hands of Bolsheviks in the aftermath of the Russian revolution, the venerated Chafetz Chaim reflected, "Who buried Nicholas? Jews wept and cried over their troubles, and in the merit of their prayers, they were rid of the Tsar. If they so strongly felt the pain of the Churban - the destruction of the Temple - and cried out against the desecration that is our exile, they would be rid of that too." (Sichot, 82)
The Jews prayed for an end to the brutal rule of Tsar Nicholas, but with the end of the Tsar, they soon found themselves under the rule of the Communists, who would prove themselves as worthy an adversary to the Jews as was Nicholas. The Communists and their policies of forced assimilation threatened the very existence of Russian Jewry. As in Egypt, the Jews in Russia prayed for relief, but it would not come with regime change, because the real problem was Russia itself and the anti-Semitism that was endemic to Russia. The prayers for relief lead from one nightmare to another.
In our own times, the death of Yasir Arafat has sparked a wave of optimism that his successor, Abu Mazen will follow a different path. But once again, the main picture is obscured. Mazen is Arafat's long time confidant, their ideals and goals do not differ. The notion that he will create meaningful, lasting change is at best, unrealistic.
No doubt, there have been times when the death of a tyrant gave the Jews cause for relief. The death of the wicked Haman, or the Roman Emperor Hadrian, or the Russian dictator Joseph Stalin no doubt gave the Jews reason to rejoice. But eventually, the exile would rear its ugly head and the Jews would face new antagonists. Ultimately, there were times in history when Jews were spared by a despot's demise but not really saved.
While it is no doubt essential that Israel protect its citizens and act aggressively against the threat of terror, yet there is another dimension to Israel's struggle for security. Passover being the holiday of liberation is a significant opportunity for Jews to pray as one, for everlasting change and the ultimate redemption as foretold by the prophets, when evil individuals along with tyranny and evil itself, which they represent, will disappear.
from the March Passover 2007 Edition of the Jewish Magazine
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