Passover – a time for reflection and thankfulness


                                Rabbi Irwin Wiener, D.D.

At this time of the year we commemorate the liberation of our people from human bondage   Yes, Passover is a time set aside to remember the birth of a nation both physically and spiritually.  And it is a time for us to understand that all people regardless of color or creed have been created in the image of God and deserve and must achieve independence of thought and mind and body.

There are many ways to feed those yearning to be nourished; food for sustenance; words to encourage redemption; actions to accomplish the Divine will; and courage to meet the challenges that accompany everyday living.

The observance of Passover is an invitation to experience the wonders of light and freedom and fulfillment.  It is not important to envision a miraculous happening.  What is important is the idea that has echoed through the ages: “That all men are created equal and endowed by their Creator with the unalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” (Declaration of Independence of the United States)

Part of this legacy is the requirement to save lives, ensure the safety and survival of all who walk this good Earth.  Perhaps it can be described by a story I read attributed to the Chofetz Chaim, a remarkable Sage whose wisdom is world renowned:  “Streaming through the center of a certain town was a deep river that was spanned by a rickety bridge.  One day, a group of about thirty men were crossing the bridge.  When they were at the halfway point, the bridge gave way and collapsed, sending the men plummeting into the river below.

Two bystanders immediately dove into the water and began swimming towards the men in order to rescue them.  Another bystander gazed at what was transpiring, and called at the men, who had jumped into the water, ‘You fools!’ he shouted.  ‘Why are the two of you jumping into the water?  Can’t you see that their group consists of about thirty men?  In any event, you won’t be able to save them all.  You would therefore have been better off simply remaining on the riverbank.’”

It goes without saying that this man was speaking nonsensically.  For even if the two men had succeeded in saving only one person from drowning, it would have been well worth their efforts.”

The Chofetz Chaim explains that the same thing applies to giving Tzedakah.  There are instances when a man thinks to himself, “How much of a benefit will truly be accrued by my giving a pittance to Tzedakah?  There are so many poor people anyway.”  The Chofetz Chaim explains further that another Sage was quoted as saying that it does not matter whether one does more or less, provided the intention was in the trying.

To me, that is the essence of Passover.  To me, that is the message of freedom.  To me, that is the true meaning of redemption.  We escaped the clutches of degradation and humiliation by knowing full well that only together can we ever achieve significance in our lives.

The plagues wrought upon those who tormented us helps to remind us of our frailties and failings.  The parting of the Sea allows us to grasp the message of walking unafraid toward our destiny.  The birth of our religious identity accomplished at the Mountain is a clear sign that human beings are capable of great things.  These signs and wonders are a testament to the realization that we were created for the purpose of connection to each other and to the Creator of us all.

We should be thankful for all we have with no reservation, no stipulation and no expectation.  God has given us untold blessings and we sometimes take them for granted.  Now is the time to share and now is the time to say “Thank You,” even if only for one person.