by Dwight Owen Schweitzer
(Originally published and syndicated on March 23rd 2002) .
It is not difficult to understand why Passover is the most popularized holiday in the Jewish year. The biblical story of G-d’s intervention and deliverance of the Jewish people out of the land of Egypt to a promised land is a theme that offered the hope of a better life to stateless Jews suffering other persecutions in other places and countless lifetimes. Looking back throughout our long history as a people, the essential theme of the Passover story has been repeated time and time again to the present day. While the children of Israel suffered and died for generations in the land of Egypt, it was from the deliverance out of that suffering that there came to be a homeland promised and delivered by G-d to his chosen people. .
If we accept that he gave his people the promised land we must also accept that he gave them over two hundred years of slavery and torment in the land of Egypt and 40 years of deprivation in the desert before the Jordan river was crossed and the promised land was won, and then too against great odds.. It is this juxtaposition of great hardship and great gifts that has permeated Jewish history since recorded times. It is not a story of ‘The Lord Giveth and The Lord Taketh Away’. It is a story of just the opposite. The message delivered to the Jewish people time and time again was that out of deprivation and loss came ultimate reward and fulfillment. Would G-d have made his covenant with Abraham had he not been ready to sacrifice his beloved only son? It was, according to the biblical account, the growing power and influence of the Jews in Egypt that led to their enslavement only to be ultimately delivered to freedom and a better life. It is a story that finds its parallel in our own times as well. .
Can anyone seriously contend that our ancient homeland would have been even partially returned to the Jewish people by the same world that sat back virtually indifferent to the Holocaust but for the fact that they were forced to face up to their complicity in it’s horrors? Any other possibility is to consign the millions who died at the hands of the Nazi’s to a G-d suddenly grown indifferent to the children of his children. I suggest that there is no possible explanation for the (re)creation of the State of Israel but for the enormity of the Holocaust. Those who witnessed first hand would, I think, agree, just what a close call it was that in 1948 the stateless remnants of the worlds Jews were only tossed even the meatless bone of a partitioned ‘Palestine’ by the United Nations . The victims of the Holocaust are therefore no less the founders of the modern State of Israel than their Mosaic counterparts were so many Millennia ago who gained the land promised to them by the G-d and who we remember this week of Passover as we have remembered them for countless generations.
Passover is therefore not simply a historical saga punctuated by miracles we cannot conceive of today. The victory of the ragtag Jewish fighters of 1948 against the might of three Arab armies is no less a miracle than the parting of the Red Sea. The certain knowledge by those fighters for Israel’s freedom of the fate that had so recently been suffered by their parents, sisters, brothers and children at the hands of the Nazi’s no doubt galvanized them in their resolve to retake and defend Eretz Israel. The country that was ours since the days of those other fighters who stood with Joshua before the walls of Jericho to laid claim to the land of milk and honey over three thousand years ago. Let us remember too, that Yom Ha Shoah, which we focus on shortly after the celebration of Passover, is yet another blood drenched stain on the fabric of our generations and that from such great suffering arose the modern state of Israel. Let us remember too that the enormity of the Holocaust imposes on Jews everywhere the humility never to forget not only the cost of our blessings but the obligations of our faith that charted our course some 4000 years ago.