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Passover and Remembering What It Means To Be Jewish


By John A. Elzufon  2.26.98

 Next month, thousands of Delaware Jews and millions of Jews world-wide celebrate Passover.  Throughout our history, generations of Jewish children have been told the Exodus story so they will remember their Jewish heritage.  At Passover, we remember the bitterness of slavery, the ten plagues, the flight to freedom and the beginning of the renewal of our covenant with God.  For many adults, their fondest Jewish childhood memories are of the Passover Seder.  It is truly a time to remember our heritage.  But being a Jew involves more than remembering the Passover story.     

A Jew remembers that our Hebrew ancestors were enslaved to build the cities of Egypt and because of this:  a Jew honors less the architect of a building than the architect of child’s character; a Jew admires less the forger of steel than the forger of Jewish souls; a Jew praises less the painter of portraits than the teachers of our children; and a Jew remembers that the great works of Jewish art are not paintings, statues and marble columns but the laws and teachings of Judaism’s greatest people.

A Jew remembers that the Nazis once burned Jewish children alive and made lampshades of their parents’ skins and because of this a Jew must never forget that the flames of prejudice burn first the Jews but left unchecked will engulf us all.  Because of this a Jew is committed to respecting the diversity and uniqueness of all people.

A Jew remembers that our patriarch, Abraham, first challenged God to plead for justice on behalf of the non-Jews of Sodom and because of this a Jew must never forget that the Jewish role of tikkun olam, to repair the world, extends to all humanity and that whenever injustice appears, in whatever form, a Jew must speak out.

A Jew remembers that when the rest of humanity sacrified their children to idols the story of Abraham and the binding of Isaac taught that this was wrong.

A Jew remembers the thundering oratory of the prophets who first taught humanity that prayer, humility and decent behavior were what God required of us—not sacrifice and empty ritual.

A Jew remembers that persecution of Jews and others is rooted in ignorance, and because of this a Jew is committed to working with and learning about all of our neighbors so that a Jew never judges others by anything other than the content of their character.

A Jew remembers that each generation must find God in its own way and that our covenant is revitalized with each renewal; but because our covenant must be renewed with each generation, it is vulnerable.

A Jew remembers that Jewish education is the safety net that protects the covenant, the link between the genius of our past and our aspirations for the future and the binding tie from generation to generation.

A Jew remembers the children:  who watched their towns set ablaze, who died in the ghettos, who suffered and died in the cattle cars, who died in the concentration camps, who died in hiding and who were murdered in the death camps.

A Jew knows that in every person’s heart is a nerve that answers to the vibration of the beauty of creation and the fragility of God’s most precious gift:  life.

A Jew never forgets the victims of the Holocaust, especially the children and that our children will fill the empty spaces for they are the blessed spring.

A Jew feels the enveloping covenant of God as a strong wind bearing the Jewish people inexorably forward to the battlefield of life.

A Jew remembers that Torah is the water that nourishes our Jewish soul and its concepts the light toward which we grow.

A Jew remembers that God may or may not have chosen the Jewish people but the Jewish people assuredly chose God.

A Jew remembers that if the Jewish people loses sight of its purpose, it ceases to be worthy of its mission.

A Jew believes in the God of justice envisioned by Amos, the God of mercy envisioned by Hosea and the God of peace envisioned by Isaiah.

A Jew realizes an event such as the Holocaust may make belief in God difficult, but it  makes belief in humanity without God impossible.

A Jew recognizes that no one will ever truly know God; but a Jew must never cease the quest to understand God.

A Jew cannot look at life with quiet eyes.