On the eve of the holiday of Passover, as Jews worldwide come together to remember the story of the exodus of the ancient Hebrews out of slavery, an Israeli rabbi and ethics scholar says the holiday demands attention to aspects beyond just remembrance of the Exodus, particularly this year with the plight of refugees around the world and the human crisis in Syria.
Rabbi Yuval Cherlow, chairman of the Ethics Committee for the Tzohar rabbinical organization and one of Israel’s leading experts on issues of ethics and Jewish law, has called upon Jews in Israel and around the world to use the Passover Seder as an occasion to inspire greater global awareness of the ongoing plight of a people just north of Israel’s border.
“When we read of the biblical commandment to remember the exodus from Egypt, the commandment requires that we personally feel as if we were personally liberated,” Cherlow said. “Seder night is a commemoration of our existence as a nation as we recognize how we left Egypt and came to the land of Israel. This recognition requires us to appreciate many lessons, one of which is that we too must empathize with the plight of other refugees.
“The horrific events of recent days and weeks, as we have witnessed atrocities against innocents, must call all people of conscience to respond. The Seder provides us that opportunity. At its core, the Seder is a night of faith in God as the ultimate force, who dictates the path of history and the fate of our people. That also has an impact on our perspective of other nations.”
Cherlow added that although virtually all competing sides in Syria’s civil war are also hostile towards Israel, the Jewish holiday of freedom demands compassion for the innocent victims of the fighting.
“On Seder night, we identify not with those who are committing evil but rather feel solidarity with those innocents literally caught in the crossfire,” Cherlow said.
The full text of the prayer (translated from the Hebrew by Elli Sacks) is as follows:
Master of the universe, who makes peace on high.
Though we are not accustomed to creating new formal prayers, we can no longer stand aside to look at the slaughter taking place in Your world and fail to pray. We know that both sides in this war are guilty of wanton bloodshed, and we are unable to keep silent when so many who are beyond the circle of conflict have fallen victim.
Oh Lord, we beseech You in prayer to arouse in the killers their basic humanity and evoke mercy in their hearts. Lead them to recognize that we are all created in Your image and that there are limits even to human cruelty. May You bring to pass what is written in Your Torah: “He who sheds the blood of man, by man his blood shall be shed, for in God’s image was man created.”
Grant us the wisdom to know how to act in this hour of distress, when the dark face of humanity’s evil inclination is once again fully exposed and we are unsure how to stand against it. Enable us to act with all our energies to prevent bloodshed in Your world, above all in the Holy Land and its environs, as it is written in Your Torah: “You shall not pollute the land where you are for blood pollutes the land; and the land will not expiate the bloodshed upon it, but with the blood of he that shed it.”
May God who makes peace on high, make peace upon us and upon all Israel, and let us say amen.
Reposted with permission from TPS.