Best wishes for a Happy and Meaningful Seder!
We here in Israel have only one seder, while you out there have two (and sometimes even three). Last night was really not an easy matter, arranging to bring my 94 1/2 year-old wheelchair-bound father for the seder at the garden of family friends in Tel Aviv.
On my favorite alternative music station, 88 FM, they are devoted all day to playing songs of freedom (right now “Me and Bobby McGee”). I was particularly moved to hear “The Times They are a Changing,” and perhaps for the first time paid particular attention to the words of “The Chimes of Freedom” performed by The Byrds.
Since Pesach is also Chag HaAviv (the Holiday of Spring, as we emphasized in the Kibbutz Haggadah), I’m inserting a spring-flower photo from Neve Tzedek in Tel Aviv, just to prove that we have some elements of nature too in the asphalt and sandy city. Here’s
|Jerusalem sunset, Gesher Hameiterim|
President Obama on the meaning of Pesach and the Quest for FreedomAs I said in my speech earlier today, this story — from slavery to salvation, of overcoming even the most overwhelming odds — is a message that’s inspired the world. And that includes Jewish Americans but also African Americans, who have so often had to deal with their own challenges, but with whom you have stood shoulder to shoulder.
African Americans and Jewish Americans marched together at Selma and Montgomery, with rabbis carrying the Torah as they walked. They boarded buses for freedom rides together. They bled together. They gave their lives together — Jewish Americans like Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner alongside African American, James Chaney.
Because of their sacrifice, because of the struggle of generations in both our countries, we can come together tonight, in freedom and in security. So if I can paraphrase the Psalm — they turned our mourning into dancing; they changed our sack cloths into robes of joy.
And this evening, I’d like to close with the words of two leaders who brought us some of this joy. Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel was born in Poland and lost his mother and sisters to the Nazis. He came to America. He raised his voice for social justice. He marched with Martin Luther King. And he spoke of the State of Israel in words that could well describe the struggle for equality in America. “Our very existence is a witness that man must live toward redemption,” he said, and “that history is not always made by man alone.”
Rabbi Joachim Prinz was born in Germany, expelled by the Nazis and found refuge in America, and he built support for the new State of Israel. And on that August day in 1963, he joined Dr. King at the March on Washington. And this is what Rabbi Prinz said to the crowd:
“In the realm of the spirit, our fathers taught us thousands of years ago that when God created man, he created him as everybody’s neighbor. Neighbor is not a geographic concept. It is a moral concept. It means our collective responsibility for the preservation of man’s dignity and integrity.”
Chag Sameach, Hillel