A lot happens in Nisan. Ten days ago we celebrated our exodus from Egypt; five days from now, we will commemorate the memory of six million brothers and sisters who perished in the Holocaust, and in 12 days we will celebrate the sixty-fourth anniversary of the establishment of the Jewish State. At the Seder table we recited from the Haggadah: “In every generation, a person is obligated to show himself as if he had left Egypt: for the Eternal did not redeem only our ancestors, but even us as well.” And we continue, “Therefore we are obligated to thank, praise, laud, glorify, exalt, magnify, adore, and give eternal honor to the One who did all these miracles for us and for our ancestors, and took us out from slavery to freedom, from servitude to redemption, from sorrow to happiness, from mourning to festivity, and from deep darkness to great light; let us say before the Eternal, Hallelujah!” Pesach is a holiday that celebrates the liberation of the ancient Israelites from 400 years of slavery in Egypt. It represents the universal values of freedom and liberty. The miraculous redemption from Egypt was the Israelites’ first step in becoming a nation, a people.
In 1877, Naphtali Herz Imber wrote the lyrics of “Hatikvah,” Israel’s national anthem. One of the significant lines says, Lihiyot Am Chofshi B’Artzenu “To be a free people in our land.” Moses led a newborn people out of Egypt, a people that was freed not only from slavery, but also free to worship one God, and a people that began its long journey to their own promised land. Today, 3000 years after becoming a free people on our way to our land, 135 years after Imber first wrote “Hatikvah,” and 65 years after the end of WWII, there are many in the world that question these basic elements of our existence.
The Nazis challenged our right to be. For them, there was one final solution to the Jewish problem, NOT TO BE. Once again, Iran is threatening Israel’s existence and clearly announces its wishes for the Jewish State.
We are a free people today. Free to celebrate our Jewish being, and free to choose how we celebrate it. And a free nation has the right and the moral obligation to defend itself, to insure that it continues to be.
We have a Jewish land. The Jewish people built itself a phenomenal homeland, but our right to that homeland is continuously challenged.
Pharaoh’s will to enslave the Israelites led him to destruction. The Nazis’ will to solve the Jewish problem left us wounded and bleeding, but not extinct. As Naphtali Herz Imber wrote: “As long as deep in the heart the soul of a Jew yearns… ”
We are a nation. We are free and we are home, in our own land. When the darkness becomes too thick, when leaden skies block bright blue days, remembering our glorious redemption, mourning our losses and celebrating our rebirth brings us together, proud and united. And as millions of Jews will sing Imber’s words again and again in the next few days: “Our hope will not be lost.”