Pesach (Passover) is here and apart from gorging ourselves to the hilt and reciting the Haggadah to celebrate the liberation from the slavery of the Israelites from Pharaonic Egypt over 5 000 years ago, much has happened to the descendants of the Israelites over the centuries.
Most observant Jews in Israel and in the Diaspora will be sitting down to the Pesach meal or Seder with all its symbolism of freedom from slavery in Egypt. The Haggadah is read before the Seder meal. Many feel that it is archaic and lacking in relevance. The reading is rushed through rapidly as it becomes a tedious exercise in resilience.
While very few even think of Pesach from a wider more modern viewpoint and are so involved in outdated rituals as to what is Kosher for Pesach and what is not. The religious hair-splitting explanation over what is “kitniyot” –“legumes” that are forbidden to be eaten by religious Ashkenazim.
|The 11th Plague today that is missing - the corrupt Chief Rabbinate of Israel|
We should be giving more thought to those who are still not free in countries that deny their citizens' basic human rights.
We should also be sensitive towards the Sudanese and Eritrean refugees in our midst and cease using the term “infiltrators” to justify their deportation from Israel to strange countries, whose inhabitants share their skin colour and nothing else - not language, not culture probably not even religion. They have suffered endlessly in their countries of origin and their lives
|Detail of the 'Maror' page of the Sarajevo Haggadah (courtesy of the Foundation for Jewish Culture)|
The latest statement of the Sephardi Chief Rabbi of Israel Yitschak Yosef (son of Rabbi Ovadia Yosef of which more is written later in this article) referring to black people as monkeys.
The Palestinian-Israeli Conflict still defies a solution. The occupation has taken on a different perspective. It is a moral dilemma. On the one hand, it is desirable that there should be a move to ending the occupation of the Palestinians by Israel so that the Palestinians do achieve an independent state with freedom coinciding with human dignity and democracy. On the other hand, even if Israel withdraws all the settlers from the occupied territories on the West Bank, there will be no desire on the Palestinian side to sign a peace treaty. The corrupt, wealthy Palestinian leadership have no desire to recognize Israel’s right to exist. It is their bread and butter.The terrorist activity coming from the Palestinian side is not conducive to any solution in ending the Israeli occupation.
The migrant and foreign workers, many of them coming from the Philippines, India and Thailand are contract labourers. The caregivers of our aged are on duty 24 hours a day and 7 days a week. While these people get free board and lodging from their employers. Time off is a gesture and not compulsory as there is no law to protect them from exploitation. Many caregivers do other chores in the home and do housework which is not part of their contract. They also do Pesach cleaning for the family.
I guess this is how we celebrate our freedom from oppression according to the teachings of the revered Late Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, who said that the "goyim (strangers or non-Jews) were created by God to serve the Jews". This "sage" has made many hurtful, racist statements in the past. This explains many paradoxes in our treatment of "the goyim". Sources in Judaism seem to back this up. If a contracted foreign worker's work permit expires, come hell and high water, he /she cannot renew the work permit under any circumstances.What about the situation of asylum-seekers whose future is a perpetual exile? It is a matter of time before the Israeli Immigration Police sniffs them out and deports them to a detention centre awaiting expulsion from Israel under demeaning conditions. They live in fear as this could happen at the whim of an unscrupulous employer or informer (“shtinker”).
The following Passover supplement was created by Rabbi Burton Visotzky and Sarah Beller to find relevance in the celebration of Pesach today:
"WE ARE TROUBLED when we see fear and hatred toward “the other” in Israel. In our beloved Israel, it is sadly common to encounter fear and loathing of “the other” with whom we share the land. Even in times of turmoil and insecurity, we must strive to empathize with our neighbours and treat all with dignity. We must commit ourselves to working together with Israelis and with Palestinians to realize a future of freedom, justice and peace.
LET US STRIVE TO LOVE THE STRANGER and journey toward our Promised Land. Tonight, as we reenact our enslavement and celebrate our freedom from oppression, let us work toward loving the stranger, treating all with dignity and equal protection. Only then can we truly inhabit our Promised Land and reach the future we wish to see.
WE REMEMBER when we were strangers. Tonight, at our Seder, we remember when we were strangers. We recall the Exodus from bondage and reaffirm our memory that we were once the dispossessed, the immigrants, those who fled from the lash in the hopes of finding our way to our Promised Land. We remember countless times in the Jewish story when we have pushed away, wandering, vulnerable, even hated. Why do we tell this story year after year?
WE SEEK TO KNOW the heart of the stranger. The Torah explains: “Know the heart/the feelings of the stranger, for you once were strangers in the land of Egypt” (Exodus 23:9). We tell the story so that we remember to empathize with “the other,” so that we will not do to others that which was hateful to us. “Love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt” (Deut. 10:19). At this moment, we seek to know the heart and feelings of those who are treated as “the other” today and dwell on what it means to love them.
WE ARE TROUBLED when we see fear and hatred toward “the other” here in America. In the United States, we sit down to our tables at a time of unprecedented anti-immigrant and xenophobic sentiment, Islamophobia and the stirring of hatred towards those who look different than us. We remember tonight that once we were proud to call ourselves a nation of immigrants."