Thank you to all of you who joined me in my conversation with Chanan Weissman, White House Liaison to the American Jewish Community and the Director for Partnerships and Global Engagement for the NSC (National Security Council). Chanan is a bright, up and coming leader within the US government. He shared valuable insights into Iran, Ukraine and so many other topics. The first time I spoke with him in his new position he asked me to leave him with some words of Torah to share with others. He clearly knows how to synthesize his heritage with his worldwide efforts. We wish him much success during these complicated times.
Passover changed the world. For the first time in world history, an oppressed slave nation rose up to defeat a global power. The outrageous notion that Moses, fortified by the Almighty, could march into Pharaoh’s palace and demand his people be freed was unheard of until that moment. The Jews put freedom on the map. We made it clear that every man, woman and child deserves to follow their heart and not be bullied into servitude by psychotic dictators.
For over 3000 years we have held this notion to be dear and true. Over that time span, Jews have been tortured and oppressed in almost every country that we lived in. Now we find ourselves back in the land of Israel. Yet, we are still being vilified and demonized. As I was speaking with Chanan on zoom, a terrorist opened fire on the streets of Tel Aviv killing three Jewish men in the prime of their lives. This is the same horrific behavior exhibited in Egypt. In the Bible we are told that Moses killed an Egyptian who was in the midst of beating a Jew to death. Yet, Moses is labeled a criminal and has to flee for his life. No one likes when Jews defend themselves.
We need our children to remember the lessons of Egypt. In one of the most brilliant educational achievements in the history of the world, a holiday was established where we would convey the values learned in Egypt to the next generation of Jews. It is a story of hope. It is a story of faith. It is a story of courage. It is our story.
My friends, as Jews, we must always be proud of who we are. We are a moral and just People. We have played the role of ethical torch-bearers for over three millennia. The Seder is meant to inspire us to continue on our worldwide mission to bring light unto the nations of the world. I have received non stop feedback from our Seder last week at the UN. Everyone said that Rabbi Eitiel Goldwicht was uplifting and inspiring. We literally brought G-D’s word to the nations of the world!
The highlight for everyone that I spoke to was when Rabbi Goldwicht shared his family custom, to hold hands when they sang “Dayenu.” We all sat there, hands clasped, singing a song of praise for the Almighty’s kindness to the Jewish people. I subsequently asked Rabbi Goldwicht where the custom came from. He told me that his family hosted Rebbetzin Tzipporah Chava Lifshitz for a Passover Seder after her husband the famed Talmudic scholar Rabbi Dovid Lifshitz had passed away. She told them that this was the custom that they had in the European town Suvalk where they were from.
When I heard where the holding hands during Dayenu custom came from, so much became clear to me. Rabbi and Rebbetzin Lifshitz fled for their lives from the Nazis. Rabbi Lifshitz was the chief Rabbi of Suvolk so the Nazis were keen to capture him. Through many miracles and the hand of the Almighty, they were able to flee to America. They came to America with nothing but their knowledge of Judaism and love for the Almighty. They rebuilt their lives and passed down their customs to the next generation.
So here we were in the UN celebrating a custom that emanated from a small town which the Nazis tried to wipe out. Rabbi Lifshitz went on to teach Jewish wisdom to thousands of students who in turn taught that wisdom to thousands more. One of those students was my father who often quoted Rabbi Lifshitz in his synagogue. If that is not enough of a connection then I might add that Rabbi Lifshitz held me on his lap when I was circumcised and I named one of my sons for him.
In every generation they try to silence our voice. In every generation they try to snuff out the love in our hearts. In every generation they hunt us and hurt us. In every generation the Jewish people emerge stronger. In every generation the Jewish Nation grows stronger physically and spiritually. In every generation we survive and thrive.
I urge all of you to join hands this year at the Seder for the song Dayenu. Celebrate a custom of love that was passed down to us in holiness. Turn to those at your table and tell them how much you love and appreciate them. Love is the secret sauce that has kept us together for over 3000 years. Let’s make sure the next generation receives an unlimited supply.