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Friday, April 19

The Weekly Shtikle - Leil Seder

For this year's thought on the haggadah, I would like to continue with the theme we discussed on the megillah – the applicability of our ancient stories to modern times – while touching on some points we have discussed in the past.

As we explained a number of years ago, one of the central charges of the seder experience is to see or consider ourselves as if we were part of the exodus from Egypt. On a simple level, this demands of us to use our imagination to travel back many thousands of years ago as if we ourselves were there during the exodus from Egypt. But this connection to the deliverance from Egypt is experienced in both directions. In addition to projecting ourselves back to that time, we can also project the exodus experience forward as we realize HaShem's salvation over the course of our history and in even more so, in our time.

The "fuel" for this journey is provided by another highlight of the seder – vehi she'amdah. As we take a good, long look at our history and come to the realization that our existence is threatened in every generation, it is but a simple step to realize that every generation HaShem provides a new geula of sorts.

Going through the haggadah, there was one passage that stood out as frighteningly applicable to our times. In the section of the haggadah that expounds on the pesukim from Ki Savo with the pesukim from sefer Shemos, we examine the phrase (Devarim 26:6) "vayareiu osanu." The way the haggadah explains this phrase, it speaks not of the Egyptians treating us badly but rather, making us appear bad, as it is connected to the pasuk (Shemos 1:10) dealing with the Egyptian "solution." The mistreatment of the Jews is justified by the claim that the Jews could potentially join forces with another enemy to bring Egypt down.

In The Egyptian Holocaust, David Farkas explores the many striking similarities between the subjugation in Egypt and the Holocaust. Indeed, the charge of dual and dueling loyalties (point #5) was prevalent in both cases. This isn't really unique to persecution of Jews. Since human beings do have a natural inclination to be reasonable and oppose mass murder, every entity that wishes to destroy what it considers to be an enemy, needs to engage in a significant campaign of dehumanizing that enemy in order to justify their annihilation.

For Jews, with their strong sense of community and national identity, the charge of dual loyalty is not a difficult case to make. This has been true throughout history and is certainly not a modern invention in the era of Jewish statehood, although it does seem to provide an easier target. Unfortunately, these claims have come to the fore in very recent times with statements by individuals in frighteningly significant positions. We must certainly be mindful of these threats while at the same time being proud of the positive national qualities that give rise to them.

Have a good Shabbos and Chag Kasher ve'Sameiach!

For a collection of previous seder night shtikles, please check out my archive of past Seder shtikles.

Eliezer Bulka

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