By: Romi Morales
Two of the central values with which we relate the holiday of Pesach are freedom and leadership, concepts that managed to transcend the relevance of the particular moment and context in which they arise, to perpetuate in time as two great mandates that invite us, from these lenses, to look at the world and intervene in it.
Although both values are extremely significant, this year I would like to add another value in view of the challenges we face within Am and Medinat Israel. This time, I would like to talk about the concept of “brotherhood”.
Interestingly, when we look at the models that appear in the book of Bereishit about brotherhood, we could say that these are not entirely successful. The story of the first pair of brothers in our sources (Cain and Abel) does not have a happy ending; neither does the story of Yitzchak and Ishmael; although the story of Jacob and Esav shows some slight improvement, although not entirely; and the children of Israel, although in the end they end up reconciling, the road until that happens, is not entirely rosy. In this sense, we can say that the models of brotherhood that we see throughout the first book of the Tanach are full of jealousy, envy, quarrels, lack of trust, anger and much pain. Until one pair of brothers decides to break this pattern and not fight: Efrain and Menashe, Joseph’s sons. So revolutionary is this that, to this day, according to Jewish custom, when parents bless their sons, they do so with the wish that they will be like them.
Brotherhood, yes, but different.
And then, we come to the book of Shmot. In this book, the process that Bnei Yisrael go through from being free subjects, to being a group of slaves and their subsequent exit to freedom, now facing to become a people, is narrated. In this process, we clearly see the strength and centrality of Moshe, as a key figure in the success of such an important mission. And we also see clearly that this figure is not the only one: for Moshe to be able to establish himself as a symbol of leadership, the figures of at least two other people are necessary: Miriam and Aaron, his siblings.
The fascinating thing about this story is that, these three brothers show us that, what we thought at the end of the book Bereshit was the ideal to aspire to (“no fighting between brothers”), in Shmot, is only the basis of something deeper and more important: non-fighting, non-conflict is not an end in itself, but a mere means. And the question then is: A means to what?
Two ways of looking at the Brotherhood.
When we see brotherhood standing in the past (“we come from the same parents/tribe/people, we share the same blood and therefore we should try not to enter into conflict”) or in the present (“the world presents too many challenges “out there”, better not to add challenges “in here”) brotherhood is perceived as something rather instrumental: “We are brothers and it is better not to fight if we want to survive”.
However, when we see the brotherhood standing in the future (“our task is to build a better future for those who come after us”), a special synergy is created that allows the understanding that each is, in the whole, much more than the sum of the parts.
The case of Moshe, Miriam and Aaron is the case of three brothers who understood and understood that “not fighting” may be enough to get Bnei Israel out of slavery, but not to turn them into a people. In order to create a prosperous, dignified and free future, it takes teamwork, cooperation, different types of leadership that converge, associate and unite in harmony to advance a cause much bigger, more important and deeper than the welfare/ego/personal success of each one.
In this sense, the absence of conflict between siblings is a means to ensure the healthy continuity, strengthening and enrichment of the next generations. It is, unlike the previous model, to understand that “It was our turn to be brothers, and we consciously decided to strengthen, support and help each other because we want to live together and because we choose to build a better shared future for all those who come after us”.
It is no secret that we live in a reality where extremes, in whatever field we refer to, tend to polarize our vision of the world. Paradoxically, in a context full of possibilities, ideas and colors, conversations tend to fall into models that reduce everything to “black or white” options. Unfortunately, lately, within Am and Medinat Israel, these logics are not alien. Extremist tendencies attempt to separate. Radical discourses break the networks of trust between people. Conflicts, fights and lack of tolerance threaten to destroy what our ancestors built with so much effort.
Today more than ever, I believe it is important to recover the model of brotherhood that the Pesach story brings as an example. Today more than ever we need, each one of us, from the place of influence we have, to create the necessary bridges to rebuild the bonds of brotherhood within Am Israel: Bonds of brotherhood that see the difference not as a threat, but as a richness that allows us to grow, to learn, to be more and better. Bonds of brotherhood that allow us to embrace those who are not like us, understanding that what makes us different, many times, is what complements us.
Today more than ever, we need leaders who can unite: unite past, present and future; unite Diaspora and Israel; unite different ways of understanding Judaism and Zionism, both inside and outside Israel. And for that, we need leaders who understand and comprehend that when their personal example reflects that doing today to invest in tomorrow is really important, this is enough to bring forth the young pioneers who will conquer a better future for Am Israel as a whole. Yes, that is the mandate, relevance and role of leaders today: to educate by example the youth who will be tomorrow’s leaders.
And if you don’t believe me, just look at the example of Joshua Bin Nun, who, with strength and courage, took the reins of our destiny and allowed us to take the entire people to a much higher level than any leader ever achieved before. It was only after Moshe, Aaron and Miriam sowed the foundations of healthy and responsible brotherhood in the people, that we were able to enter Israel and become a free and independent people for the first time.
In this sense, I believe that investing in educating by example models of brotherhood in Am and Medinat Israel is fundamental; as fundamental as it is to invest in the Jewish, Zionist, humanist-liberal and pioneering education of our youth. Only an education based on the millenary values of our people and the universal heritage is the ultimate way to start building a better future. Personally, I have chosen to contribute my grain of sand as an educator of youth movements in general and in Hanoar Hatzioni in particular, and with much pride and admiration I say to you: there is no more pleasant task than this. There is no nobler cause than to sow today, so that others may harvest united and in peace in the future.
On this Pesach, I wish that, in addition to remembering that we were slaves in Egypt, we may also remember “How pleasant it is when a tribe of brothers dwells together in harmony” (Tehillim 133).