I’ve mentioned before that Passover is my favourite Jewish holiday because the message of freedom from slavery and oppression is so inspirational.
During Passover, we recall the slavery endured by the ancient Israelites in Egypt and celebrate their struggle for freedom and the exodus from Egypt led by Moses. As the Passover Haggadah tells us, all of us, in every generation, must view ourselves as personally moving from the bondage of slavery to freedom.
That message of every generation viewing ourselves as moving from slavery to freedom via the Israelites’ exodus from Egypt seems to me to be a lesson from our sages that the message of Passover is not just to remember something that may have happened thousands of years ago, it is that the message remains eternally relevant for all time.
In the 1850s – not very long ago in relation to the many centuries since biblical times – when African American slaves in the United States were struggling for their own freedom from slavery, they took great inspiration from the story of our exodus from slavery in Egypt. Harriet Tubman, the leader of the Underground Railroad, which spirited slaves from the American South to freedom in Canada, was code named “Moses.” The code name for Canada was “the promised land.”
As Jews, we remember the six million of our people murdered by the Nazis during the Holocaust. We also remember the Nazis enslaved millions of Jews, including so many of those they murdered. That dark period of our history ended just 69 years ago. Later this month, on April 27 and 28, we’ll mark Yom HaShoah, and it’s not a coincidence that the Holocaust Remembrance Day comes so soon after Passover as it is tied to the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising that began during Passover in 1943.
Shockingly, the Global Slavery Index indicates there are now 29.8 million people living in some form of slavery around the world. And, while the vast majority of those are in such countries as India, China, Pakistan and Russia, no country is immune. Even Canada is listed as having about 6,000 people living in slavery.
The journey from slavery begun by Moses continues in our own time.
The Jewish state debate
There is a debate raging about whether Palestinian recognition of Israel as a Jewish state is essential to a peace agreement and that debate has found its way to this issue. Guest columnist Bob Dale insists the recognition is essential, while columnist Mira Sucharov says it is unreasonable.
Israel was created as a Jewish state after the United Nations voted in 1947 to partition Palestine into a Jewish state and an Arab state. Rejectionism of a Jewish state has been at the heart of every conflict Israel has faced, from the 1948 War of Independence, to the rocket barrages the villagers in Sderot face from Gaza, and to the delegitimization campaigns on university campuses. It seems to me that two states for two peoples needs the acceptance of who those people are (which, of course, does not mitigate the imperative for minorities within Israel to enjoy full rights of equal citizenship).
Please join the conversation by adding your comments via a letter to the editor or via comments on the website.
Ottawa Jewish Bulletin
As this is one of our two community-wide issues for the year, some of you receiving the issue are not regular Bulletin subscribers. If you’re one of those, I hope you like what you see and you’ll take a moment to subscribe to all 19 of the issues we publish each year by visiting www.ottawajewishbulletin.com/subscribe/ or by calling Bulletin business manager Barry Silverman at 613-798-4696, ext. 256.
And don’t forget to visit our website – www.ottawajewishbulletin.com – regularly. You can read and comment on our major articles and columns; you can download PDF and page-turning versions of the print edition to read on your computer or mobile device; and the site is regularly updated with breaking stories of interest. Like us on Facebook to get regular updates on new content.
On behalf of the staff of the Ottawa Jewish Bulletin, I wish everyone a happy and joyous Passover.