By Gilad Katz
Passover is one of the most sacred holidays for the Jewish people, a holy day where we come together to celebrate our national liberty and freedom. During this time where we celebrate our ancestor’s liberation from slavery in Egypt, it is customary for Jewish families to gather around the seder table, read from the Haggadah, remember our exodus from Egypt, and to reflect on the transformation that the Israelites have undergone since our emancipation. This year, Jewish families around the world are displaying their ingenuity by recreating what we know as a “traditional” Passover seder. From video conferences to intimate gatherings with one’s nuclear family, Jewish communities around the world are showing yet again, our ability to persevere through challenging times. These momentous events occurred over 3,500 years ago, and although many years have passed, miraculously each one of us continues to relive the story of leaving Egypt, year after year. Our sages tell us that we must personally feel as though we, ourselves, took part in this epic creation of the Jewish nation.
Many times people, even my own children, ask these basic questions: Why should we care about what happened to our forefathers more than three and a half millenniums ago? Why do we celebrate ancient historical events that have no influence on our lives today? Given the challenges that the world is facing at this time, is observing this holiday even worth the effort?
I then reply with the following questions: Why do we celebrate the establishment of the State of Israel? Why do the American people, or any other nation, celebrate their independence that was established centuries ago?
Yigal Allon was the commander of the Palmach, an elite military unit during Israel’s War of Independence, a general in the Israel Defense Forces, and a prominent political figure in Israel for over 30 years. Allon once referenced the importance of learning and identifying with our heritage, tradition and history. Allow me to quote just one sentence that summarizes Allon’s approach:
“People who do not know their past, their present is poor and their future is hazy.”
History is not just a story. History is who we are. Events that took place and affected our forefathers shapes our own identity. The lessons of our ancestors were passed on from generation to generation, until they became part of who we are today.
Even in these uncertain times, the message of the Passover story still rings true. The story tells of how the Jewish people overcame
their subjugation and went from being shackled and enslaved to prosperous and free. So today, as we face a new obstacle, let us remember the strength of our ancestors and know that we too can overcome. Let us find creative ways to observe. In doing this, not only do we honor the story of our ancestors, but also we continue the traditions of the Jewish people.
*Please observe the Passover Holiday safely and in accordance with social distancing standards.
Gilad Katz is Consul General of Israel to the Southwest.