Rabbi’s Message: Jan.-Mar. 2018

Lessons Never to Be Forgotten

Vayivakesh Haman l’hashmid et haYehudim asher b’chol malchut Achashverot ahm Mordechai. / And Haman sought to exterminate all the Jews of Achashverot’s kingdom, the people of Mordechai.
Megillat Esther 3:6

V’hi she’amdah la’avotaynu v’lanu, shelo echud bilvad Aleynu l’khalotaynu. Eleh, sheb’khol dor vador omdim Aleynu l’khaloyaynu, v’haKadosh Baruch Hu matzilaynu miyadom. / It is this that has stood by our ancestors and us. Because not only one alone has rose up against us to destroy us. Rather, in each and every generation there are those who have arisen to exterminate us. However, the Holy One, Blessed be He, has rescued us from their hands.
From the Pesach (Passover) Haggadah

Limdu haytaiv, dirshu mishpat, ashru chamutz, shiftu yatum ribu almanah. / Learn to do good, seek justice, uproot oppression, defend the orphan, plead for the widow.
Isaiah 1:17

I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America,
And to the Republic for which it stands,
One Nation under God, indivisible,
With liberty and justice for all


By the time you will receive this issue of The Messenger, winter will have mainly run its course. Spring is on the horizon and for us that usually triggers the Pesach alert. Out with the chametz! In with the matzah! But before we even get to Pesach, we will have some great fun enjoying our yearly Purim antics. The two holidays are so very different. Pesach has its origins in the Torah itself and is considered to be a Torah level commandment to observe. Purim was created by the rabbis of Talmudic times based upon the Book of Esther, itself a later add-on to the TaNach (Jewish Bible), included in the Ketuvim or Holy writings. The two holidays are observed in distinctly unique manners. Pesach has much ritual, serious food restrictions and requirements, and a serious message as well. Purim, besides the requirement of the reading of the Megillah, is accompanied by much noise and silliness. It is observed by enjoying a feast, drinking intoxicating beverages, and much boisterous revelry. The two holidays seem so different. Or are they?

While the rituals, customs, practices, and observances of Pesach and Purim appear to be polar opposites, one primary message remains the same: In every era of time, historically, the Jewish people have faced an intractable foe that was focused on oppressing, subjugating, and ultimately exterminating the Jews.

In every generation, rabbis and other leaders of the Jewish community have retained this message and sounded the alert to our people when a threat to our security and safety has reared its ugly head.

Today, however, we of the American Jewish community have enjoyed freedom and equality for quite some time in the freest, most just nation that has ever existed on the planet.

The tremendous liberty we enjoy as Americans has propelled us to advocate for both Jewish and non-Jewish causes that we clearly view as standing up to injustice. When the nascent State of Israel was under siege from Arab/Muslim enemies who sought to enact a second Holocaust, we aided the Jewish state with every sort of support—financial and political and many even volunteered to go to Israel to serve in some capacity to help during the Six-Day War of June 1967. The lessons of Pesach/Purim propelled us to advocate for the liberty of Soviet Jewry when they were being persecuted and kept prisoner in the Communist Gulag state. Our pressure, and the attention we drew to the issue through the “Free Soviet Jewry Movement,” led the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics to eventually relent and release their population of oppressed Jewish hostages. Even a decade earlier, though, Jews were instrumental in bringing success to the efforts of the civil rights movement, which brought an end to “legal” discrimination against black people in our country. Jews were even willing to give their lives to help others attain the promise of liberty and justice for all that is part of the Pledge of Allegiance of our nation.

Today we may need to focus on new ways to continue to put into practice the lessons of Purim and Pesach. I would like to offer some suggestions.

Jewish causes: The State of Israel needs our continued support. I am so thankful that President Donald Trump has recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s eternal capital, the first time an American president has done so. Soon the American Embassy will be moved to where it belongs, to Israel’s capital, Jerusalem! This is positive news, but Israel still needs our support here. Her enemies continue to promote the BDS movement and look for other ways to hurt Israel. Jews in European countries such as France, Sweden, Germany, and the UK are being violently besieged by Muslims who now outnumber them. Our brethren in Europe need our support. And of course we still need to be vigilant about antisemitism here in America. While polls show that we are the most admired religious group in the country, we also experience the most hate crimes.

Non-Jewish causes: Many Iranians are now risking their lives in something called the “Green Revolution.” They no longer wish to be oppressed by Islamic mullahs who impose Sharia law on them. These people wish to enjoy the same type of freedoms that we enjoy in a secular republic. They need our aid and encouragement. Many people are surprised to learn that the most persecuted people in the world are the Christians of Muslim lands. In countries such as Pakistan and Iran, Christians are often tried and executed on bogus “blasphemy charges.” In Pakistan it is not uncommon for Christians to be burned alive in their churches. In December 2017, Muslim suicide bombers murdered and injured many people as they set off their explosive devices in a church in Quetta, Pakistan. Just as we in the past created a movement to save Soviet Jewry, today we need a movement to save these persecuted Christian communities.

May God bless us to frustrate the designs of our enemies and to enable us to put the lessons of Pesach and Purim into practice in our time.

Purim Samayach and a Chag Kasher V’Samayach/Wishing us all a meaningful and joyous Purim and Pesach,

[The opinions, beliefs, and viewpoints expressed here do not necessarily reflect the opinions, beliefs, and viewpoints of the Bellerose Jewish Center.]