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Faces on Faith: Message of Passover speaks to all of us


PHOTO PROVIDED Rabbi Stephen Lewis Fuchs

The eight-day Festival of Passover, which ended on April 4, celebrates the liberation of our ancestors from slavery in Egypt.

Our tradition commands us to see the festival as more than a history lesson. “In every generation,” we stress at our Seders, “we should act as though we ourselves have lived in slavery and marched forth to freedom.”

Why? To reinforce in our minds and hearts the reality that there are so many still enslaved today. God calls on us to care about them and to help them in any way we can.

Some are slaves to homelessness, some to hunger, to illiteracy, to the horrible COVID-19 virus, and to addictions of various kinds. We may not be able to “free” everyone from their slavery, but surely, we can help to free somebody.

More than any other commandment — 36 times — the Torah reminds us not to mistreat the stranger because we were strangers and mistreated in the Land of Egypt long ago.

Our nation became great because strangers’ found their way here from countries where they escaped oppression. I am here because my father, who was arrested and mistreated on Kristallnacht (Nov. 9, 1938) in Germany, was able to enter this country as a refugee.

Make no mistake! Welcoming, as Emma Lazarus’ verse on the base of the Statue of Liberty puts it; ” … your tired and your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free” is “putting America first.”

In slavery our lives were hopeless. We lived in drudgery and oppression. Life had neither meaning nor purpose. Suddenly, God delivered not just our ancestors but us too.

Yes, the god of justice and compassion went to war against Pharaoh, the god of selfishness and greed. One worshipped Pharaoh by conscripting slaves to build monuments to his glory. We worship the one true God by performing acts of caring, compassion and kindness.

Because God went to war with Pharaoh and liberated us from bondage, we owe God a debt that we can never repay.

Yet, we try by doing our best to liberate others. We try by performing acts of kindness, caring, and compassion. Passover is not just about our past. It is also about the future we wish to shape, a future marked by justice and righteousness for all humanity.

Rabbi Stephen Lewis Fuchs is with the Bat Yam Temple of the Islands.