As Solomon, the wisest of men, once said: "There is nothing new under the sun." With this in mind, it is not surprising that Israel is once again feeling the squeeze no matter what it does. Be it stealing and falsifying passports in order to eliminate a deadly killer in Dubai (assuming of course that Israel did this) or building much needed housing units for some residents in Jerusalem, the whole world, including some supposed “friends,” is waving its finger of righteousness at Israel and condemning our improper behavior. Such acts by Israel, we are told, together with the horrific atrocities we supposedly committed last year while fighting the civilized Hamas pacifists in Gaza and the ongoing “siege” there, have seriously damaged the chances for reconciliation with the Arabs and are counterproductive to advancing the holy of holies, the idea that will ultimately save the world: The sacrosanct two-state solution.
The problem, of course, is not the hypocritical condemnations but rather the fact that some Israelis, particularly amongst our leaders, are actually unnerved by these ludicrous condemnations. Rather than looking these accusers in the eyes and confidently stating, without any shame or embarrassment, the justness of our actions, they choose to avoid the real issues and instead try to play down any differences in the hopes of placating our critics. Since it is obvious that such an approach cannot go on indefinitely if we truly want to be a sovereign nation in our land, it would be wise and quite timely to contemplate on one of the very important lessons of the current Passover holiday.
Passover is also known as the holiday of freedom. Although on one level this celebrates the fact that God brought us out from Egypt and thus ended our enslavement there, on a deeper level this freedom refers to something else. After years of being slaves, we were commanded by God to take a lamb in broad daylight and to watch over it for a few days before actually slaughtering it and smearing its blood on the doorposts of our homes. Despite the divine nature of the commandment, this was no simple request since its fulfillment was sure to infuriate our Egyptian tormentors who worshipped the lamb.
Thus, our eventual adherence to God’s command and subsequent performance of the act was a mighty show of internal strength and trust in God. For once we stopped fearing the mighty Egyptians and decided to follow God no matter what, regardless of any consequences that might have come about as a result of our bold behavior. Simply stated, this was a true act of what is known in Hebrew as mesirut nefesh.
This is beautifully pointed out by some biblical commentators who highlight the fact that we were requested to roast the lamb specifically on a fire, in clear view of our Egyptian oppressors, rather than in the comfortable and closed confines of our homes in order to clearly display our trust in God. This unmistakable act of mesirut nefesh, our readiness to do whatever God requests of us regardless of what the powerful nations of the world might say or do, is the real freedom that is celebrated on Passover. Moreover, it was only after we outwardly displayed this powerful inner freedom that God finally physically took us out of Egypt.
As we celebrate the holiday this year we need to remember that Passover is not just a celebration of some historical event that occurred a few thousand years ago. Rather, it is something that has tremendous relevance for our lives today. Contemplating on the idea of freedom, the lesson should be clear. As individual Jews and as the collective Jewish nation we need to actively strive to reach that level of freedom where we can proudly be ourselves, fulfilling our mission in life and in the world, without any fear of “what the nations will say.”
Moreover, through the grace of God we once again have a nation of our own, which means that millions of Jews are no longer living in the Diaspora. If so, we need to stop with the Diaspora mentality of fear and trepidation, passively waiting for something to happen or for others to help us, constantly afraid of criticism and reactions. Instead we need to start acting confidently, based upon a deep trust in God and recognition of all that He has done for us, actively doing whatever we must in order to change and improve our situation.
It’s time to free ourselves!