Rabbi's Message, Rabbi Alvin Kass, March 2015
Rabbi Alvin Kass
Chief Chaplain of the NYPD
Passover Message of Hope
Many are the reasons for observing Passover. The lover of nature finds it an expression of joy at the rebirth of nature.
The historian examines it as the commemoration of the Exodus from Egypt and the establishment of the Hebrew nation. The moralist sees in it a paradigm of mankind’s struggle for freedom. But, above all, Passover means to everyone that there is hope in the world. If God could have redeemed some of His children 3200 years ago from the bondage of the Pharaohs, then God is not insensitive or indifferent to His people.
Man is sacred and meaningful, not to be dismissed as an expendable cog in the cosmic machine.
Such thoughts are essential prerequisites to our mustering the courage to confront the serious issues that threaten Jewish survival at this ominous time. After 67 years and five wars Israel still finds itself confronted by implacable hostility and Arab neighbors bent on her destruction. Iran, in particular, is on the verge of acquiring atomic weapons and is the most aggressive and openly hateful neighbor of all. The proliferation of nuclear and thermonuclear weapons makes the prospects for the survival of mankind even dimmer. Even if war doesn’t destroy the world, then surely a materialistic and immoral peace in which men thoughtlessly poison the atmosphere and deliberately break their own laws will. From a Jewish perspective one can also find ample reason to be glum. Apathy, intermarriage, assimilation, and secularism have inflicted serious wounds upon our people and their way of life.
All, nevertheless, is not lost. Modern Israel may not yet enjoy peace, but, thank God, there is a Jewish State, and the Jewish people have endured countless attempts to destroy them during the past three millennia. Biological survival in a hostile world is no mean feat; indeed, all the efforts at extermination have only strengthened the Jewish resolve to persist and persevere. The Jewish people have gone even further, however, by demonstrating that our existence serves a larger and more transcendent purpose which can be discerned by examining our long and eventful history.
We gave to the world the Torah which embodies the fundamental moral and ethical principles of behavior without which civilized life would be impossible. By precept and example we have shown the way to a better society. Our prophetic heritage, furthermore, has sensitized us to social injustice and impelled us to labor in behalf of a more just and equitable community.
Surely, if there is hope that mankind will stop short of thermonuclear suicide despite the colossal tinder box into which the major powers have converted the universe, it is because the Jewish longing for shalom has become international. The prophets of Israel were the first to believe that peace was both an attainable and worthwhile goal. They likewise set forth the strategies whereby the vision of Isaiah would come true: "Nation shall not lift up sword against nation; neither shall men learn war anymore."
There is even reason to believe that the Jewish people may survive its own prosperity and success.
Cassandras have predicted the disappearance of the American Jew from the moment he stepped forth on these shores. Somehow, he is still around. As a matter of fact, there is reason to believe that we may be on the threshold of a new era in which the younger generation returns to its "roots" with ever greater fervor and commitment. We have a long way to go; but burgeoning day school enrollments may betoken on the part of the American Jewish community a more intense involvement in Jewish social and religious life, and an insistence that Biblical values be their guide in every area of public and private endeavor.
If God has seen fit to save the tribes of Israel, surely He will not abandon His glorious universe. Plan and Purpose, though not always apparent, are an essential element in the world. Man and God are partners who have the joint responsibility of redeeming the human race from inequity. The needs of our time are manifold. It is no small source of assurance that in moods of despair we can look back to the story of the
Passover and find therein a glowing message of hope. Hag Sameach –A Happy Passover to you all!