Romi Morales

As is well known, the holiday of Pesach has 4 names. In this article, I would like to share a brief summary of the meanings traditionally given to them and some others that they acquire in light of the challenges that Israel faces in recent times.

Chag HaCherut. The holiday of freedom.

On Pesach we celebrate that Am Israel was able to emerge from the slavery that oppressed it for hundreds of years, to the much desired freedom. After much suffering, pain and difficulty, when it seemed impossible that the future would offer something better, the possibility of retaking the destiny of their lives, presented itself to Am Israel as an option within reach. Since then on this holiday: In every generation, each person must see himself as if he had come out of Egypt. This is how, every year, we find ourselves faced with the possibility of reflecting on those things that tend to limit our freedom.

This year, unlike so many others, the meaning of the Passover holiday became deeply urgent and literal: 133 people are still being held captive by the Hamas terrorist organization in Gaza since 7/10, deprived of all their freedoms just because they are Jews and Israelis. The famous phrase with which Moshe appeared several times before Paroh, שלח את עמי (“Let my people go out”), is today the request of Israeli society and the entire Jewish people, throughout the world. This year, in order to truly celebrate the holiday of freedom, we need our loved ones to be released and to return home so that they can begin the process of healing on a personal level and, along with all of us, on a national level.

In the meantime, and until that ceases to be a hopeful wish and becomes a reality, all of us who enjoy relative freedom must use it to help those still in captivity. Let us use our freedom of speech to tell the story of those who today cannot use their own voice; let us use our freedom of movement to reach those places where we are most needed; let us use our freedom of opinion to continue to educate in the values that make this world a more just, free and humane place.

Chag HaMatzot. The feast of unleavened bread.

Matzah is the unleavened bread that we eat on Pesach to remember the urgency with which Am Israel left Egypt because, due to the lack of time, the bread failed to leaven.

The bread and the matzah are prepared using practically the same essential materials, the only difference being the yeast: the one in charge of making the bread swell and take large dimensions.

For this reason, some say that chametz (leavened food) is associated with the ego.  Just as the leaven transforms the real dimension of the food, sometimes the ego leads us to lose the ability to see ourselves and the reality in which we are immersed, as they are. In this sense, the ego is dangerous because it inflates us, enlarges us, fills us with pride and does not allow us to see, to listen, to learn. The ego is even more dangerous when what we can only see is ourselves and not the Other close to us.

Israel is at a crucial moment. It faces challenges that bring into play the most essential and profound values for which our country was created as a national home for the Jewish people: to ensure and guarantee the security and integrity of all its citizens, wherever they may be.

In this context, it is imperative that society in general, and our leaders in particular, see the fundamental needs of the people of Israel today, without which the social foundations could crumble.

This historic moment will demand great levels of humility, both in assuming that we have made the wrong decisions, as well as in taking responsibility for our actions and showing a willingness to take new directions. In this chapter of history, we must understand what is truly fundamental that must be safeguarded.

In my humble opinion, nothing is more basic, unpostponable and inescapable for the unity of Israeli society than the certainty on the part of its citizens that, in the event of an emergency, their lives take priority. Everything else, like leaven during Pesach, can wait. Am Israel Chai, The People of Israel Lives, and as long as this happens we will not give up until all the captives of our people are freed.

Chag HaAviv. The feast of spring

The harsh winter is characterized by strong winds that often blow away the leaves of the trees, leaving them bare and discolored for long months. Gray skies, relentless rains and constant clouds are the fixed landscape in the background. During the winter it gives the feeling that nature is dormant, sometimes even dead.

And after the harsh winter comes the noble spring. That is when everything is magically revived. The trees give their first green leaves and their first picturesque flowers bloom. It is exciting to observe the wisdom of nature and touching to receive its message of resilience: It is possible to overcome the hardest circumstances and recover after having gone through a stage of darkness and cold.

In this Pesach it is important to remind ourselves of this empowering message, because if we take into account what our sources express (“because man is like the tree”), we understand that the power of resistance, strength and overcoming also exists in us.

This Pesach, this message of hope is what we need to be sure that, in spite of everything, better times will come. And when they come, we will be able to enjoy them.

Chag HaPesach.

The last of the plagues in Egypt was that of the death of the firstborn. The Hebrews were saved from it after having made a mark on their doors, since according to the stories, it is said that the plague “skipped” those houses with marks, attacking only those without marks. Hence the word “Pasach”, whose meaning in Hebrew is “to skip”.

It is inevitable to think that the tragic events of 7.10 and everything that has happened since then did not “skip” any sector of Israeli society: from children to people of the golden age, from the north to the south of the country, more or less religious people, of any political party and ideological opinion, Jews both inside and outside Israel, absolutely all of us have been challenged in one way or another. Fear, anguish, frustration, are just some of the feelings that in the last six months have arrived at our doorstep without being able to “skip” them.

We are approaching the holiday of Pesach. And it comes with great compassion to remind us that since the first Pesach and until now, as a people we have constantly gone through enormously difficult situations, and yet we have had the strength to move forward. This strength lies in our unbreakable union, in our ability to not act with indifference in the face of the pain of our brothers and sisters. This strength lies in showing us that the phrase “Kol Israel arevim ze la ze” (“All Israel is responsible for each other”) is not mere theory, but the age-old glue of this human fabric we call Am Israel. That is what will enable us to continue the inexorable quest to be a truly free people in our land, Eretz Zion Ve Yerushalaim, and to ensure that this desire is not just a hope. 

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